By Gboyega Akinsanmi
The Lagos State Government at the weekend disclosed that of the 5,000 inmates in different prisons in the state, no fewer than 4,000 were still awaiting trial, representing 80 per cent.
The state government added that through its newly initiated mobile courts, it had successfully prosecuted 1,107 persons, who violated different environmental and traffic regulations in the state.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, disclosed this at a news conference he addressed alongside his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Steve Ayorinde and the state Solicitor-General, Mrs. Funlola Odunlami, among others.
He noted that 80 per cent of 5,000 inmates in the prisons across the state “are awaiting trials in spite of the effort of the state government to decongest the prisons. A lot has to be done in decongesting prisons in the state.”
He said the state government had introduced community service in order to address prison congestion, saying 2,073 offenders were sentenced “to various terms of community service across the state’s 12 Magisterial Districts between May 2015 and March 2016.”
According to him, the offenders actively assisted to improve their respective communities instead of being incarcerated in prisons with the consequential disruption to their economic, social and family lives.
On mobile court, the attorney-general said since the inauguration of the Special Offences (Mobile) Court on February 5, 2016, the court “has successfully prosecuted 1,107 violators of traffic and environmental nuisance.”
He explained that the special offences court was established “to facilitate prompt and immediate trial of traffic and environmental offenders. It is vested with the powers to sit at any convenient place close to the scene of the commission of any offence triable by it.”
Aside, Kazeem said the Directorate of Public Prosecution prosecuted about 1,536 criminals in 2015, which he said, facilitated the recovery of N114 million for residents which it provided legal services for.
He said out of the 1,536 cases, 1,375 are currently being prosecuted at the Federal and State High Courts as well as 122 and 38 respectively at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Kazeem said in addition to the 1,536 active criminal prosecution files, the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) was also handling 137 applications for enforcement of fundamental rights.
“With regards to criminal prosecutions, the DPP is committed to ensuring that all offenders are brought to book, thereby discouraging impunity in our society. The Directorate is also committed to speedy trails so that suspects are not detained for too long awaiting trial.”
He said the Legal Advisory Unit which focuses exclusively on the review of criminal case files, containing reports of investigation submitted by the police and issuance of legal advice has been able to hasten considerably the speed of criminal prosecutions by reducing the time spent on issuing legal advice.
“In the period under review, out of 1,209 police investigation files sent to the DPP’s office for legal advice, the unit has already completed work on 940 while the rest are still being processed, many requiring additional information or further investigation by the Police or other relevant agency.”