Stakeholders in Rivers State have expressed concern over the alleged high rate of inmates at the correctional centre service in the State, and urged law agencies to embrace the innovative provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law [ACJL 2015].
The coalition, consisting of members drawn from the Nigeria Bar Association [NBA], Nigerian Union of Journalists [NUJ], Media and Civil Societies, met at a programme in Port Harcourt, with the theme, “Civic Space Watch Cluster Pause and Reflect Forum with Stakeholders”.
It was facilitated by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), with the purpose of addressing issues of effective implementation of ACJL and formation of Advocacy and Monitoring Group.
Vice Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association [NBA], Port Harcourt Branch, Emmanuel Okpala, highlighted the number of inmates awaiting trail in Rivers State, which was above 3,000 and purported to be the highest in Africa.
He also mainstreamed the issue of “arrest before investigation” as key factor to the astronomical number of inmates, including a good number of young people who are kept in the correctional centre without adequate care, and the regrettable issue of inmates not having files.
In a communique drafted to support the Advocacy efforts of the Civic Space Watch Cluster, participants agree that the Advocacy be taken to both rural and urban areas.
He also said Police Duty Solicitors Scheme [PDSS] should be focused on for the speedy dispensation of justice in Rivers State and as a tool in decongesting the State correctional centre.
It was also noted that sensitisation of the ACJL should start from government officials and law enforcement agencies, adding that “ACJL will be very effective if the system can thrive independently”.