47,229 Awaiting Trial in Our Prisons, Says Osinbajo

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, monday lamented the delay in the country’s justice administration, which he said was the reason 47,229 detainees “are still awaiting trial in the prisons.”

Likewise, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, said no country would achieve sustainable economic growth without a functional judicial system, which he said was an attraction for foreign investors.

The duo expressed concern on the country’s rising prison population at a stakeholders’ forum on justice administration organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island.
The forum, which was convened by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji, was designed to discover more innovative ways to strengthen the capacity of the justice sector.

Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, said awaiting trial detainees spent an average of three years in custody waiting trial.

He reeled out data on the condition of the country’s prison system and justice administration, noting that there were 47,229 detainees currently awaiting trial in the prisons as at 2017.

He put the total prison population at 67,586 out of which 47,229 “are awaiting detainees. We discover detainees spend average of three years in custody awaiting trial.”

The vice president added that Lagos State “has the highest number of unsentenced detainees in Nigeria. Lagos State has 5,603 unsentenced detainees out of the total prison population of 6,532.”

He explained that the detainees in Lagos State “represented at least 85.9 per cent of its total prison population and 10.4 per cent of Nigeria’s total prison population.

“The time the unsentenced detainees remained in prison mainly depended on the length of proceedings. It is important for stakeholders to agree on concrete steps to remove bottlenecks to justice administration.”

Osinbajo, thus, identified delay in the administration of justice as a major challenge that must be jointly tackled by all relevant stakeholders in the justice sector, just as he urged judges, lawyers and others to change their attitudes and stand up for what is right.

As a way out of the problem, the acting president called on the judiciary “to embrace day-to-day system for trials and heavy punishment for deliberate act of delay aimed at stalling cases.”

He took a swipe at some judges who would not sit on time and rise early and lawyers who file frivolous applications and employ other delay tactics as well as shoddy police investigation, and admonish them to desist from such.

“If we can agree that these problems are against our collective interests as practitioners and stakeholders, then we must make a firm commitment to tackle the problems by changing our attitude and standing up for what is right.”
Also speaking, Ambode said for any nation to experience economic growth, it must first have a functional judicial system that would not only encourage local and foreign investors to invest in, but also guarantee conducive environment for such businesses to thrive.

Ambode said experience over the years has shown that societies with equal and unhindered access to justice have a better environment for economic growth and poverty alleviation than those that do not.

This, he said, prompted his administration to prioritise justice and security reforms, not only to maintain law and order, but basically to carry out the various developmental projects that would make Lagos safer and more prosperous.

“As a government, we are well aware that to achieve our socio-economic goals of a safer, secured, peaceful and more prosperous Lagos State, we need a functioning justice sector, which guarantees not only the maintenance of law and order, the enforcement of human rights and freedom, but also provides an administration of justice ambience that protects investments and encourages economic development.

He listed some of the major challenges currently being faced by investors and entrepreneurs include the ease and cost of doing business and over regulation of business processes, saying that the summit was not only timely but a veritable platform for experts to proffer solutions.

“We are mindful of the need to attract foreign investment, and public private investment, especially in the area of provision of infrastructure. No economy can develop without sustained infrastructural development. I firmly believe that discussions around all these issues are pertinent for this august gathering.”

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