President Muhammadu Buhar has described prison congestion in Nigeria as a national scandal, urging the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen to adopt a new approach to hasten the decongestion of prisons.
The number of inmates in Nigeria prison is currently put at 41,524 out of which 29,372 are awaiting trial inmates.
The situation has been described as worrisome as the total capacity which the prisons facilities in Nigeria can accommodate is put at less than 30,000 as revealed by the 12 man committee set up by the immediate past administration to work on prison reforms.
But President Buhari while receiving Justices of the Supreme Court at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Friday, lamented that congestion of prisons across the country is a national scandal that must be addressed immediately through a new approach, to save the country form further embarrassment.
“We need a new approach to prisons decongestion. It is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by up to 90 percent. Urgent new measures should be put in place to speedily decongest prisons not only in the interest of justice but to save cost for prisons maintenance and enhance the welfare of prisoners,”he said.
He said the Minister of Justice and Attorney General had since requested that courts be established within prisons, in order to address the problem of logistics associated with the movement of suspects to courts during trial.
“My Attorney General is advocating establishment of courts inside the prisons to speed up decongestion. The logistical problem of transporting prisoners from prisons to courts means a difficult period for suspected detainees. This is really bad” he said
He however commended the Judiciary for establishing special courts to speed up trial for corruption and other criminal cases.
President Buhari said government decided to increase the budget of the Judiciary, in view of the role it plays and would sustain that to improve the dispensation of justice.
He said: “We are not unmindful of the daunting challenges faced by the judiciary in the areas of infrastructure and funding. This informed our decision to increase the judiciary’s budget in the 2017 fiscal year which we are committed to sustain. I have asked the Attorney General to take up this matter with the salaries and wages commission for advice to the President.”
According to him, huge sums are being spent on security, especially in the North-East and Niger-Delta regions, instead of using such money for meaningful development, to better the lives of citizens.
He also directed the CJN to remain steadfast in prosecuting the current reforms in the judiciary stressing the stability of the country depends a lot on the Judiciary and Police.
Earlier in his remarks, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen thanked God for healing the President Buhari.
Justice Onnoghen who led the Justices of the Apex Court to the Presidential Villa, reassured the President that that the judiciary will continue to do its best for the country. He also thanked the federal executive council for its support and cooperation.
Tony Ailemen, Abuja