Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen
Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen

  •  Says Prison Congestion a National Scandal

President Muhammadu Buhari also yesterday met with justices of the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in the Council Chamber of the State House.

The CJN alongside other judges on a courtesy visit to the President, pledged to discharge their constitutional duties responsibly.

 At the meeting Onnoghen assured the president that the judiciary would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the dream of a better Nigeria is realised. 

He described the visit, which he said was meant to welcome the president back home from his medical trip as unique.

He said he had deemed it fit to lead members of the judiciary to the State House to celebrate the president’s recovery and simultaneously thank the Almighty God who granted him healing.

He also thanked members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), particularly Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for their continuous support and cooperation with the judiciary.

He said: “Today is a very unique day. It is a day we have come, the judiciary as a body to welcome you back home. When you went for your treatment the first time, you came back, I was the only one that came to welcome you and to thank you for the confirmation of my appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“This time around, I feel it is better for the Judiciary as a body to come and express our thanks to God because he is the greatest healer, for healing you, for taking care of your health challenges, for bringing you back. While you were away, the country was not at rest but we kept on praying that one day, you will be back and you are back.

“So, that is why we are here. We thank God and thank you and the first family for continuing to take care of the home front. We thank FEC for their cooperation, the vice president in particular, he has been wonderful, It is an opportunity for my brother justices to see you, a big masquerade very closely for the change, because we are always there closed up in our courts busy with the books.

“That is just why we are here to let you know that we are happy, we are glad you are back. We will continue to pray for your full recovery, for your good health and to reassure you that we will continue to do our best to discharge our constitutional responsibility and by God’s special grace, we will get to the final destination.”

In his remark, Buhari lamented the degree of congestion in Nigerian prisons, describing it as a national scandal.

Consequently, he urged the judges to ensure drastic measures are taken to decongest the prisons.

Buhari who said he was displeased by the state of the prisons, said they were about 90 per cent over crowded.

“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 recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had earlier made a request for the establishment of courts within prisons with a view to addressing the problem of logistics associated with the movement of suspects to courts during trial and consequently aid decongestion.

“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 added.

He commended the Judiciary for establishing Special Courts to speed up the trial of corruption and other criminal cases.

He also disclosed to the justices that the government had decided to increase budgetary allocation to the Judiciary in appreciation of its role to nation building.

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,” he revealed.