A legal practitioner, Mr Monday Ubani, has called for a total review of the criminal justice system in Nigeria, especially on ‘awaiting trial inmates’ in correctional facilities across country.
Ubani, former 2nd Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), wants the Chief Justice of the Federation and the NBA to look into the issues of inmates suffering for the crimes they did not commit.
According to Ubani, many innocent inmates are languishing in correctional centres, especially in Lagos.
“Some were even arrested by the police without committing any offence; some were arrested on mistaken identities, while others were detained and given unnecessary stringent bail conditions that they cannot meet up with. Before now, a lawyer can perfect the bail condition of an accused, but today, the police will not be available to assist. This is improper and we must stop it.
“The chief justice of Nigeria, NBA, rights groups and the media, should rise up to this challenge. We all should be worried about the criminal justice system in the country. My position is that we should cry out. Visit the correctional centres; ask questions and release those who are not supposed to be there. I want them to understand that there are people on ‘awaiting trial’ lists and have no case files, their cases can never come up in the court and they will remain in prisons indefinitely. I have released five of such persons.
“I have decided, in conjunction with a man of God, Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, of Celestial Church of Christ, Genesis Global Parish, who himself is an inmate to fight this battle of inmates being detained unnecessarily and with stringent bail conditions.
“What attracted me to the prophet is the stories I read about his spiritual and human efforts towards those who are in correctional custody in our correctional facility at Kirikiri, Lagos. The story is that he is making the efforts to win more souls for Christ. He makes donations of food and toiletries to the inmates, which to us, is the true traits of true Christianity, which is represented by love for God and humanity.
“Of utmost excitement to me personally and our law firm is the issue of facilitating the release of some of the inmates that have been in detention awaiting trials for good number of years. I am sure you are aware of the story of Azeez Ibrahim, who regained his freedom recently at the instance of the prophet. The man narrated how he wrongly served 10 years and six months at Kirikiri correctional centre for wrong identification.
“He regained freedom as a result of the intervention of Prophet Oladele. Those who have regained freedom so far through the effort of the prophet and his church has risen to about 82 inmates.
“We got interested in knowing this great apostle of God and we are interested in partnering with him to secure the lives of those that are being wasted in prison by our imperfect administration of criminal justice system.
However, we got more than we bargained for. He told us the story of his sojourn to the correctional centre at Apapa. We demanded a copy of the apostles judgment that pronounced his conviction and sentence.
“Sad at some of the events that led to his conviction. We are glad that the conviction is being challenged seriously by a very senior and competent lawyer based in Lagos. It is our conviction that justice shall be served at the appellate jurisdiction. There are clearly yawning gaps in the entire story leading to his trial and conviction. We are worried that the exonerating report of the Alagbon police authority that was the last to investigate the whole incidence was never taken into consideration at the trial court. As said earlier, these and many more shall be strengthened in due course,” he said.