26 February 2013

Nigeria: Prison Decongestion - Expert Lauds FG, Calls for Political Will

A criminal justice expert, Professor Kevin Nwosu has advised the Federal Government to ensure the faithful implementation of the prison decongestion exercise using the restorative justice options which it recently pronounced.

The Minister of Interior Comrade Abba Moro had announced that the Federal Government will adopt the modern non-custodial approaches in decongesting the prisons across the country.

During an inspection visit to Kuje prison, FCT last week, the minister enumerated some measures to reduce the over 70 per cent awaiting trial inmates of prisons across the country. These include: community service and tracking through traditional and religious leaders and other peace officers.

While lauding the Federal Government's proposal over the weekend, Prof Nwosu said the project can be achieved without the usual elaborate government consultancy -contractor process adding that the minister of interior and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) should convene a meeting of experts to review the program and see how to constitute a national working consortium on prison decongestion.

The former director academics of the Nigeria Law School, Bwari also stressed the need to incorporate the states in the prison decongestion drive, saying they are key to the success of the exercise because 80 per cent of cases pass through state laws or institutions.

"The Federal Government should not focus on the conviction stage alone. We have to mainstream institutions to achieve this right from crime to conviction. Traditional rulers can come in from the onset of crime prevention not after the crime has been committed. The Justice Belgore model has enunciated a comprehensive approach to decongest the prisons across the country.

"The new global model requires special expertise because it will require the retraining and capacity building for all major actors in the criminal justice system. We cannot achieve what government wants to achieve if we still use the same structures, orientation and approaches. So government needs to bring on board people who have been working on these areas, who understands the dynamics and who have done comparative study of this practice as it happens all over the world and who are also able to adjust this global principles to local relevance," he said.

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