NGO assisted 420 indigent pre-trial detainees, empowers 102 female inmates in 5 years

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By Ruth Oketunde

Hope Behind Bars Africa (HBBA), a non-profit organisation, says it has provided legal representation to no fewer than 420 indigent pre-trial detainees in the last five years.

Ms Funke Adeoye, Executive Director of the organisation, disclosed this while briefing newsmen on the activities of the organisation, on Wednesday in Abuja.

She said that the organisation had also empowered no fewer than 102 female inmates with vocational and life skills to help them earn money while in prison.

She added that to reduce prison congestion and activate criminal justice reforms in the country, the organisation had also supported over 7,000 indigent persons with diverse interventions.

According to her, Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982, as at May 30 and the inmates awaiting trial constitute about 69.3 per cent of the prison population, which must be reduced.

Adeoye said that the figure is the highest percentage of awaiting-trial prisoners in Africa, according to the World Prison Brief’s report, which puts the figure at 12.4 per cent for Ghana and 32.9 per cent for South Africa.

The executive-director added that it would continue to advance access to justice using a multi-pronged approach.

“We started out directly representing inmates for free here in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and expanded to Kano and Edo states.

“Currently, we have a network of lawyers in Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Edo, Kano and FCT. We have represented 420 indigent pre-trial detainees so far.

“About 40 per cent of this number were charged with simple offences, 20 per cent for misdemeanors, and the rest for felonies, capital crimes and fundamental human rights actions.

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“About 80 per cent of these cases were taken from inmates during visits to the custodial centres, while 20 per cent were based on referral and at the police stage.

According to her, the results from these cases ranged from convictions, discharges for lack of diligent prosecution, successful no-case submissions, withdrawals of complaints and acquittals.

“In all these results, our main goal is to provide adequate legal representation and to make sure that the rights of indigent pre-trial detainees are not prejudiced.

“Evidently, with the cases we handled, we cut the time that would otherwise be spent awaiting trial by at least 50 per cent and saved taxpayers money that would have been spent on wrongful incarceration,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event featured the unveiling of the 5-year Impact Report/Strategic Plan of the NGO.(NAN)(www.nannees.ng)

Edited by Sadiya Hamza

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