By Akinwale Akintunde
Seven inmates from the Ikoyi Prisons in Lagos yesterday, breathed the air of freedom when they were granted amnesty by the Lagos State Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke, bringing the number freed from prisons in Lagos to 16.
The Chief Judge said the gesture was aimed at decongesting the prisons and ensuring that deserving inmates breathed a fresh air of freedom.
In exercise of her prerogative of mercy, she freed the inmates pursuant to the provisions of Section 1(1) of the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Special Provision Act CAP C40, 2007, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Justice Oke commenced the amnesty exercise on Thursday with a visit to Kirikiri maximum, medium and female prisons. She had released nine inmates, four from medium and five from maximum prisons in Kirikiri on Thursday.
The freed inmates were said to have stayed longer in custody than the number of years they would have spent if sentenced by the court for offences charged.
Continuing with the exercise yesterday, at the Ikoyi Prison, the Chief Judge explained that those granted amnesty were qualified for release after a thorough review of their case files.
She however admonished the released inmates to, henceforth, be of good behaviour and stay away from crime. She also advised them to desist from any act that would bring them back to prison.
As part of measures to further decongest the prisons, Justice Oke said the Restorative Justice Centres set up by her administration would take off January next year.
She said Lagos blazed the trail in setting up the centres as part of efforts to decongest the prisons and as “mandated by President Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.”
The Chief Judge said prison decongestion was a national issue and at the heart of President Buhari and Justice Onnoghen emphasising that that was why all chief judges were mandated to do all within their powers to ensure that the prisons are not congested.
According to her, the centres, which would operate as a mediation centers, would determine lesser criminal matters like assault, petty stealing between complainants and respondents, without such matters getting to Police Stations.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Deputy Controller of Ikoyi Prisons (DCP) Tolu Ogunsakin urged the Chief Judge to introduce parole system, community services, accelerated hearings, fines and warnings among others in order to help decongest the prisons.
Ogunsakin disclosed that the facility built for convicts in 1955 with a capacity for 800 inmates, presently has 3,138 inmates, out of which awaiting trials accounted for 2,644 while 494 were convicts.
According to Ogunsakin, notwithstanding the number of inmates, Ikoyi Prison facility is run as a genuine correctional institution for reformation and rehabilitation of offenders.
“We have been continually committed to ensuring that our inmates do not idle-away but leave our facility better than before their incarceration. Our Human Resource Development Unit- 3R Club (Reforamation, Rehabilitation and Re-integration Club) has been deeply engrossed in training programmes aimed at equipping the inmates with useful skills in order for them to be self-reliant and law abiding on their discharge”, the DCP stated.