Ebola: Officials Say Prison Inmates To Stay Free

Prisoners in NigeriaOfficials of the Nigeria Prisons Service have promised to ensure that inmates in the nation’s prisons, who are awaiting trial, stay free of the Ebola Virus Disease.

The Deputy Comptroller of the Service in charge of administration, Dr Peter Ekpendu, who spoke at a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday called for the improvement of sanitary conditions in all prisons.

He said that allowing the disease amongst the inmates would be a serious threat to the nation at large.

The drive towards containing the spread of the Ebola virus disease amongst over 65 per cent of inmates awaiting trial is the reason behind the meeting.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria in July, brought in by a Liberian-American, Mr Patrick Sawyer, the government has stressed the need for more awareness to promote good hygiene amongst Nigerians.

Mr Sawyer died on July 25.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease early this year, at least 1,427 persons have died from the virus, which the World Health Organization has declared an international emergency on.

As the Federal Government, experts and private institutions have continued to discuss how to contain the spread of the Ebola disease, they believe that the nation’s prisons must be on red alert to check any occurrence.

No doubt, the nation’s prisons have become congested,creating room for easy spread of diseases amongst the inmates. But government officials say safeguarding the human rights of Nigerians cannot take place where the health of its people is at stake.

Senate Debates Bill Seeking To Free Illegally Detained Inmates

The Senate is taking steps to review the administration of justice system to ensure the decongestion of prisons across Nigeria.

A lawmaker, Senator Babajide Omoworare (ACN-Osun) on Wednesday introduced a bill to amend the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) Act 2004 to make it mandatory for the Comptroller General of Prisons to send monthly reports of the entire prison inmates to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and States Chief Judges.

The bill, which scaled its second reading, proposed two amendments in Section 3 and Section 2 of the 35-year-old Act.

In his lead debate, Senator Omoworare said the bill would address the nagging issue of prison decongestion in the country, where 70 per cent of inmates are said to be awaiting trial.

“We are all aware of the various efforts by past governments in the country to tackle this thorny issue to no avail.

“These measures, culminated in the inauguration of an intervention fund of N8.7 billion, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Justice in 2006, which fetched no tangible result.’’

The senator explained that the proposed amendments would make “it mandatory for the Comptroller General of Prisons, to timely send monthly returns of the entire inmates of the prisons to the CJN and the Chief Judge of the relevant state.

“The Chief Judge shall on the basis of that return, order the release of inmates, who fall into the category covered by the Act,’’ he said.

The proposed law is to ensure that the Chief Justice shall on the basis of that report, order the release of inmates who are detained unlawfully or detained longer than the maximum period of imprisonment.

Court insists Lagos must pay N7 million to suspect detained 10 years

An Ikeja High court on Wednesday ruled that it was wrong for the Lagos state government to have detained a Nigerien, Mamman Keita in prison for over 10 years without trial and that the government must pay a compensation of N7 million to the detainee.

Hundreds of inmates are being detained illegally in prisons across Nigeria.

The presiding judge, of the case between the detainee and the state government, Justice Habeeb Abiru gave this ruling in response to an application the Lagos state Attorney General, Ade Ipaye had filed asking the court for a stay of execution its earlier judgement on the case.

Justice Abiru had in an earlier judgment delivered on December 16, 2011, ordered the Lagos state Attorney General to pay the sum of N7 million to Mr Keita to compensate him for his continuous detention in prison for over 10 years without trial.

The court had held that Mr Keita’s detention without proper arraignment and trial in court was a violation of his fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He had also ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar and Mr Ipaye to tender an apology to the 43-years old ram seller for detaining him unjustly for murder.

The judge while dismissing the application held that it lacked merit because Mr Keita was unjustly detained for over 10 years and deserved the compensation.

The court also faulted Mr Ipaye’s claim that Mr Keita was remanded in prison by the Police without forwarding the case to the office of the Attorney General.

The judge added that both the Police and the Attorney General was responsible for ensuring that people were given justice, which was denied Keita in this case.

“The criminal justice administration law was proposed by the ministry of justice and we have a duty to uphold its provisions”, Justice Abiru said.

Mr Ipaye had filed an appeal at the Appeal Court, Lagos against the judgment and had asked the High Court to stay execution of its judgment pending the determination of the appeal.

In the application filed on his behalf by Olabisi Ogungbesan, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Lagos state Attorney General had faulted Justice Abiru’s judgment which necessitated the appeal.

The Mr Ipaye had argued that the issues raised in the grounds of appeal are obscure and clearly touches on the powers of the Attorney General and the police under the relevant laws of the land.

He had claimed that the judgment debt, if granted would be paid from the taxes paid by Lagosians which would impose an increased burden on the state government.

Mr Keita’s lawyer, Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem had urged the court to dismiss the application, arguing that it lacks merit and would deprive his client the fruits of litigation.

The matter was adjourned to May 2 for hearing of the garnishee application filed by Mr Adetola-Kazeem.