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Lack of Vehicles, Overcrowding Bane of Enugu Prison Command, Says Comptroller

From Ignatius Okpara, Enugu

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The Enugu State Command of the Nigerian prisons Service (NPS), has identified lack of operational vehicles to convey awaiting trial inmates to court as well as overcrowding of prisons as some of the  key challenges constituting serious cog in the wheel of progress of the organization in the state.

It was noted that the development had over the years, affected  the administration of criminal justice system in the state, and compounded the already faulty system which the service has been grappling with in the country.

The state Comptroller of NPS, Mr. Ndubuisi, Ogbodo, stated this Tuesday in his office, while receiving members of the  State Working Group on the project, “Promoting accountability and transparency in the administration of Criminal Justice System in  Enugu state”, who paid him an advocacy visit.

He hinted that owing to the ugly development, sometimes, awaiting trial inmates scheduled to appear in court do not go because of lack of vehicles to convey them by the men of the (NPS), positing that the situation has done more harm than good to the criminal  justice system in the state.

Ogbodo, who also harped on the need for synergy among key players in the criminal justice system in the state, said for instance, the Command needs about fifteen operational vehicles to effectively cover all the courts in Enugu state, but regrettably,it can only boast of four serviceable ones presently.

According to him, aside from the issue of operational vehicles, other major challenge confronting the Service in the state is  overcrowding of the prisons with dilapidated structures, stressing that a facility which was originally meant for 638 inmates now houses over 2,000 inmates.

The Enugu NPS boss, pointed out that if the service is properly funded as its sister agency, the Nigerian police force, (NPF), including getting support from state governments, the issue of prison decongestion and other pressing issues affecting the organization, especially at state levels will be a thing of the past.

“If government, especially states can treat us the way the  police is treated, we won’t have the magnitude of the problem we are having today in the service.

African Examiner reports that the working group is  engaging key stakeholders in the implementation of administration of criminal justice Act ACJA, 2015 and administration of justice criminal law ACJL 2017 of Enugu state.

The interface with the stakeholders will focus on the compliance to implementation of both the Act and the law in order to identify the gaps and challenges associated with them  with a view to dealing with them head long.

Presenting an address on behalf of the group, the executive Director of African Law foundation, (AFRILAW) Mr. Okereke Chinwike, hinted that  the project is being championed by CLEEEN foundation and funded by MacArthur Foundation, adding that his organization and Women Information Network, (WINET), a non governmental organization, as partners, are in the forefront of ensuring  proper implementation of the project in the state.

He told the Enugu, NIS Comptroller, that the project seeks to use technology through digitalization of court judgements in Nigeria to promote accountability, and transparency in the fight against corruption .

Mr Okereke, added that the working  group made up of selected stakeholders was formed with a view to monitoring and following up the implementation of the  administration of criminal justice Act ACJA, 2015 and administration of justice criminal law ACJL 2017 of Enugu state.

He noted that “one essential feature of the ACJL is its paradigm shift from punishment as the main goal of the criminal to restorative justice which pays serious attention to the needs of the society , the victims, vulnerable persons and human dignity generally.

“Our visit today is to find out the progress on the implementation of this provision and indeed the entire law by the Enugu prisons Command, and the challenge.

The working group is made up of the independent corrupt practices and other Related offences Commission ICPC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Nigeria Bar Association NBA, National Youths Service Corp NYSC, FIDA, amongst others,  however, expressed its commitment towards supporting the implementation of the Act and law in the state.

 

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