Nobody should Be Detained beyond Statutory Period, Says FCT CJ

Justice Ishaq Bello

* Says police must obtain court order to detain suspects

By Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Chief Judge (CJ) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Bello, on Monday reiterated that nobody suspected or being investigated over alleged crime should be detained beyond the statutory period as prescribed by the law.

Bello, who said security operatives must be civil in the discharge of their legitimate duties, stressed that it is more important for suspects to be alive and healthy to attend their trials.

The Chief Judge was speaking at the Pilot Skills Acquisition Project and Jail Delivery at the Keffi (new) custodial centre, in Keffi, Nasarawa State.

The project is to ensure the proper rehabilitation, re-orientation and re-integration of inmates into the society upon their release.

Justice Bello, while commending efforts of the police at maintaining law and order and keeping the country safe and secured however enjoined the Force to carry out its duties in line with the provision of the law, adding that the court is ready to partner with it and other security outfits in implementing the law.

“Nobody should be detained beyond the statutory period,” he said, adding that: “Police must seek order of court to detain any person beyond statutory period. We want to be sure defendants are alive and healthy to stand trial.

“If you want to have them, come and seek order for remand. We will give you time, if you want weeks, we will give you and if you are not done with your investigation ask for more time and we would look at it and give you. It is all about civility.”

Bello recalled that in a recent visit, it was discovered that over 250 persons were being detained beyond the necessary period, following which the police was asked to seek order of court for their remand in a correctional centre, pending their arraignment or release in case no case was established against them.

He noted that this directive having been complied with will further impact on the already congested correctional centres the government is trying to decongest.

Bello, who doubles as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and De-congestion, said the skill acquisition projects embarked upon by the government would help equip inmates for life after prison, stressing that the reform which is shifting focus from punishment to correctional is the best way to go.

The Correctional Service Act, which according to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), is a fallout of ongoing reform aimed at decongesting prisons as well as equipping inmates for a better life after prison.

“We consider the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 20l9 very critical to the administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria for quite a number of reasons.

“In the first place, it is our much-awaited legislative wand for bringing to an end the hydro headed problems associated with overcrowding and prisons congestions in the country.

“With this Act in place, we now have the much needed legislative backbone for the comprehensive implementation of the national policies and strategies for prisons decongestion in Nigeria and I cannot but give credit to Mr. President for his demonstrable commitment towards the speedy decongestion of Nigerian prisons, now Correctional Centres,” Malami had said last week, while declaring open the first National Workshop on the effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act.

Speaking at the unveiling of the project at the Keffi Medium Security Correctional Centre, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, said the launch demonstrates the high premium placed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the welfare and indeed “the judicious use of time by the inmates in our custodial centres”.

While stating that the gesture also attest to the recognition and prominence to the aspect of training and rehabilitation of inmates in line with the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, the minister enjoined the beneficiaries “to avail themselves of this golden opportunity to learn vocational skills that suit their natural endowments so as to provide and equip themselves with permanent means of livelihood that will take them away from crime and criminality”.

Trade currently being taught at the centre include tailoring and fashion design, shoe and bag making and carpentry and wood work.