Nigerian Prisons Should Be for Reformation, Says Okowa

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Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has advised that Nigerian Prisons should be for correction and reformation of inmates rather than places for punishment and stigmatisation.

The governor made the call wednesday while declaring open the fifth Criminal Justice Reform Conference organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Asaba.

According to the governor, “It is exigent that we devise a template for the prison system that focuses on correction and reformation, as against punishment and stigmatisation.

“We must objectively, dispassionately and rigorously proffer solutions that will ensure the prison system only takes away the freedom of offenders, not their lives; as such, inmates must be empowered with the knowledge and skills to become productive citizens upon regaining freedom, instead of reverting to a life of crime because they have no other choice,” Okowa stated.

He also observed that technological growth has brought about a virtual world and the “judiciary must demonstrate responsiveness to this new paradigm by continually updating and upgrading the skills and knowledge of its officers to meet the needs of the legal profession, and ensure that the public continues to be served by competent courts of law.”

The governor noted that Delta State in 2017 enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Law which ensures “fixing time limit for rendering of legal advice by the Attorney-General, filing of information without seeking consent of the High Court Judge, front loading of prosecution and defence witnesses’ written statements on oath and prohibition of stay of proceedings in criminal trials and setting of detention time limits for suspects.”

He commended the NBA for its efforts to make the criminal justice system more efficacious and humane to engender public confidence in the legal system.

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen in separate goodwill messages read by their representatives at the event, called for reforms that will strengthen the Nigeria’s justice system while the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, in a goodwill message, said: “We have domesticated and passed into law Delta State Administration of Criminal Justice Law in March, 2017 and in attempt to make the Criminal Justice System work effectively, the Delta State House of Assembly has also passed into Law: Delta State Peace and Vigilante Commission Law, 2013; Delta State Security Trust Fund Law, 2014; Delta State Anti-Kidnapping Law, 2016; and Delta State Anti-Terrorism and Anti-Cultism Law, 2016.

“Lack of access to good counsel by the poor, continue practice of holding charge, media trials by security agencies, few properly trained prosecutors and inadequate funding of criminal justice agencies,” Oborevwori observed was affecting the Nigerian justice system.
The Chairman of the NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee, Mr. Arthur Obi-Okafor, had in a welcome address, commended Okowa for his support to the committee, stating that the conference was important to strengthen the criminal justice system.