Anambra CJ Frees 13 Awaiting Trial Inmates | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Metro, Ndigbo, Region

Anambra CJ Frees 13 Awaiting Trial Inmates

Posted: Jun 22, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chukwujekwu Ilozue Awka

The plight of awaiting trial inmates of Nigerian prisons is no longer news. The Nigerian Prisons house many innocent victims who have been clamped into detention by ‘the high and mighty’ over the slightest disagreement.

Umeadi

Umeadi

Many Nigerians are believed to have been dumped in prison and their record destroyed to ensure that their files would not be traced and that they are not charged to court. The situation contributes in no small measure to the over-crowdedness of the prisons.

However, once in a while, the Chief Judges embarks on what is termed goal delivery whereby inmates who have overstayed in prison without trial are freed.

Although this has not been cited as the main reason why the chief judges embark on goal delivery yearly, the pictures presented to the chief judges during the exercise show that this is one of the major problems chief judges are confronted with during the goal delivery as witnessed recently when the Anambra state Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Peter Umeadi visited the prison at Onitsha.

Justice Umeadi had said that the essence of the prison visit was more of interventionist and not to clear all the cases. According to him, the visit was to have a feel of the inmates who are in the prison cell and how the wheel of justice machinery has been running.

He said that his observation is that the wheel of justice could run better. Justice Umeadi lamented a situation where those concerned with justice administration bring suspects to court unnecessarily without adequate information on them.

According to him, such practice put the suspects in the cell longer than necessary and Judges in dilemma because if they release the suspects they will incur the anger of the people. He wondered how a kidnap suspect would be put in cell for eight years by Police without being prosecuted.

Earlier, while briefing the press on the jail delivery, the Chief Registrar of the state High Court, Mrs. Doris  Ezeani  had asked legal practitioners and the general public especially those whose clients and / or  relatives are in prison to take note of the goal delivery. She said the Chief Judge will use the opportunity to release prison inmates who have overstayed but have not been charged to court and those who have health problems, juveniles, the aged, nursing mothers and others with special considerations.

The Deputy Chief Registrar in charge of special duties and protocol at the state High Court, Mr. Eugene Agbasionwe summarised the observations of the officers of the temple of justice after this year’s goal delivery by Justice Umeadi thus: “The major problem we noticed at Aguata and Awka prisons is that records were sometimes obliterated, so it is sometimes difficult to present an inmate to the Chief Judge for consideration or send him to regular court. CJ said the essence of goal delivery is to make sure that people are not duly incarcerated in prison. One man discharged from Aguata prion for instance has no records and nothing is known for his stay there.  This means that justice is denied him or miscarriage of justice has occurred”.

Agbasionwe said that when one is bailed in the course of the prison visit by the CJ, one goes free until Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) have information because most capital offences could be tried on information and it is the duty of the DPP to file an information after looking at the facts available after police investigation while the case is adjourned sine die and while the magistrate transfers the file to DPP. According to him, efforts would be made to ensure that all inmates had proper records so that they do not suffer unduly.

These were indeed the manifestation of the fears earlier listed. Lack of records were common feature at Onitsha prison where the CJ granted bail to 13 inmates-10 males and three females and where it was discovered that  many prison inmates have no records. Such was also the case at Aguata prison where Justice Umeadi released six persons. One major discovery by the chief judge was that many inmates, especially the Awaiting Trial Men, ATM, have no records that would enable lawyers and prison officials to prosecute the cases of the affected people in courts. In Onitsha, Justice Umeadi directed that one Naomi Etim aged 23 at the time of her detention and hails from Ikot Ekpene in Cross River State, detained   for three years and eight months for alleged sale of her son be taken to her village by her counsel and the prison authorities and handed over to the head of her clan due to her mental state. Also released on bail was 36 year old Ifeoma Onwuaghalu who has been in the detention for four years for alleged murder of her husband during a brawl, but the husband family was said that have forgiven her and applied to discontinue the matter.

Others granted bail were Onyemachi Obinweaku, detained when she was 15 years for abandoning her two months old baby, and Ifeanyi Okeke, 15 years at his detention after the person he fought with died about two weeks after but has stayed in the prison cell for one and a half years.