By Jacinta Nwachukwu
Some stakeholders in the judiciary sector have underscored the need to decongest the correctional centres in the country, using access to justice projects.
They expressed the concern on Tuesday in Abuja at the “Access to Justice parley and joint inauguration of the Court Administration and Case Management, and Reforming Pre-Trail Detention in Nigeria phase II.
Prof. Akinseye George, President, Centre for Social–Studies, said that number one problem of criminal justice system in Nigeria was delay.
George said that the major reason for the delay was lack of effective pre-trail case management.
“Effective pre-trail case management would create a situation where the judge, the prosecutor, the witnesses and all the parties including the complaint would have agreed on the timetable for the trail before the trail begins.
“But in Nigeria we don’t conduct effective pre-trail case management even though the law provides for it.
“So it is important that all the heads of court, Attorneys General must begin to insist that courts trying criminal cases must conduct pre-trail case management.
“So what the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) is doing in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy is to begin to build capacity of Nigerian legal system to conduct effective pre-trail case management before trials commence.
He said that without pre-trail, every effort to fast track justice would not be effective, and it does not augur well for democracy.
He, therefore, called on all the stakeholders to work together to improve access to justice because without effective access to justice democracy would be meaningless.
The Chief Executive Officer, PPDC, Mr Jubril Shittu said that over 70 per cent of Nigerian inmates population were on awaiting trial.
He explained that Access to Justice projects was aimed at ensuring that average individual should have the assurance that justice should not delayed or denied.
“Our aim is also aimed that individual have a fair chance at justice and that justice is transparent.
“We want to see that those on awaiting trail, over 70,000 in the correctional facilities across the country, we want to see the numbers reduced.
“We don’t want to be building more correctional facilities. We also want to achieve a reduction in the number of correctional facilities,” Shittu said.
According to him, PPDC was established 20 years and its aim is to see that citizens benefits from good governance, from effective institutions and from accountable and transparent institutions.
Similarly, the Board Chairman, PPDC, Mr Chibuzo Ekwekwuo, said the purpose of the programme was to bring actors together to examine the access to justice reform process in the country.
On his part, the Controller-General, Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, commended the leadership of PPDC, saying that the service was partnering with the Centre to improve on it performance.
“PPDC is partnering with the Nigerian Correctional Service in the development and deployment of Corrections Information Management System (CIMS), and more facilities are being integrated across the states.
“This initiative will benefit indigent persons in our custody and enhance our performance in case management,” Nababa said.
The controller-general was represented by Gimba Dumbulwa, Assistant Controller, Custody, of the Service.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the programme was organised by the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) in collaboration with the U.S. government. (NAN)(www.nannews.com.ng)