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Justice Minister gives ultimatum to decongest prison

By Innocent Anaba

ABUJA—The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke, SAN, has set a time-limit within which the Prison Decongestion Committee, which he set up about two weeks ago, must achieve the desired result of setting the prison inmates free who under normal circumstances should not have been incarcerated.

Mr Onyema Omenuwa, Special Assistant on Media and Special Duties, to the AGF, in a statement in Abuja, yesterday said the Minister had charged the Committee to ‘work assiduously in line with its terms of reference and ensure that before the end of July, 2010 there would have been nationwide decongestion of prisons by about 20,000 to 30,000 inmates.

According to him, statistics obtained by the Federal Ministry of Justice shows that as at December, 2009, out of 47, 956 cases being addressed by the decongestion programme, only 11, 833 cases had been completed, 7,711 accused persons were on bail, while 28, 412 cases are still pending before various courts in the country.

He noted that the Attorney General was determined to achieve the prison decongestion goal, hence in addition to the Committee, “the Attorney General of the Federation has invited the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, for a stakeholders’ meeting on the urgent need for justice sector reform, which the prisons form part of.”

According to the statement, the AGF is also partnering with the Ministry of the Interior and the various heads of courts across the federation to identify reasons for undue delays in trial of cases, which inevitably impacts negatively on dispensation of justice.


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