- Says prison congestion national scandal
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday met with a delegation of the justices of the Supreme Court, where he made case that a new approach be applied to hasten the decongestion of prisons in Nigeria.
The justices were led into the meeting by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The president, who noted that the prisons in the country were overcrowded by up to 90 percent, said the congestion of prisons across the country is a national scandal that must be addressed immediately through a new approach, to save the country form further embarrassment.
Buhari, said there were problems of transporting inmates from prisons to courts, said the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, was advocating that courts be set up inside prisons to fast track decongestion.
“We need a new approach to prisons decongestion. It is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by up to 90 percent.
“Urgent new measures should be put in place to speedily decongest prisons not only in the interest of justice but to save cost for prisons maintenance and enhance the welfare of prisoners.
“My Attorney General is advocating establishment of courts inside the prisons to speed up decongestion. The logistical problem of transporting prisoners from prisons to courts means a difficult period for suspected detainees. This is really bad” he lamented.
He said government decided to increase the budget of the Judiciary, in view of the role it plays and would sustain that to improve the dispensation of justice.
He said he was mindful of the daunting challenges faced by the judiciary in the areas of infrastructure and funding hence its decision to increase the judiciary budget in the 2017 fiscal year which his administration is committed to sustain.
He said: “We are not unmindful of the daunting challenges faced by the judiciary in the areas of infrastructure and funding. This informed our decision to increase the judiciary’s budget in the 2017 fiscal year which we are committed to sustain. I have asked the Attorney General to take up this matter with the salaries and wages commission for advice to the President.”
President Buhari lamented that huge sums were being spent on security, especially in the North-East and Niger-Delta regions, instead of meaningful development, to better the lives of citizens.
He said if he should disclosed the amount of money spent on the northeast security and the relative stability in the Niger Delta, the nation’s elite would hide their faces in shame.
“I really appreciate the efforts you are making. We know that the stability of the country depends on the police and the judiciary. When people believe that their cases will be speedily and justifiably treated, I am telling you, they will mind their own businesses, but when they are in cover with the police and the judiciary, then we’ve a problem. And the money that we need for development especially education infrastructure and healthcare will be spent on security.
“If we try to mention the amount of money that we spend on the northeast and what is costing us to maintain the relative stability in the Niger Delta, the elite will hide its face in shame,” he stated.
He however said the stability of the country depends a lot on the Judiciary and Police.
Earlier in his remarks, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen thanked God for healing the President Buhari.
Justice Onnoghen reassured the President that that the judiciary will continue to do its best for the country. He also thanked the federal executive council for its support and cooperation.