From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

The House of Representatives, yesterday, charged the federal and state governments to undertake comprehensive reforms of the correctional system in the country.

The House said the reforms should include modernising custodial centres, building new facilities, and redesigning the bail system, as well as proposing a legislation to allocate time for  dispensation of justice and reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial.

It also urged the government to propose sustainable and efficient solutions to address the congestion in 244 jails located across the country, and ensure the effective reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of inmates.

The Green Chamber, while urging federal and state governments to utilise their prerogative of mercy “to grant amnesty to deserving inmates,” charged ‘the Federal Ministry of Justice to prevent delays in justice dispensation and enhance the process of meeting bail conditions.”

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Furthermore, the House, which also urged the various security agencies to avoid arbitrary arrests,mandated its Committee on Justice to ensure compliance. This followed the adoption of a motion by the Chairman, House Committee on Reformatory Institutions, Chinedu Ogah, calling for the decongestion of correctional services across the country.

Ogah, in the motion, expressed worry that over 70,000 inmates in the various custodial centres are contending with inadequate facilities, despite government efforts.

The lawmaker noted that while some of the inmates have not “been charged with criminal cases”, some “are unable to pay the fines imposed by the courts despite having their cases determined.”

The lawmaker stated that it is disturbing that “the Nigerian criminal justice system is plagued by flaws, with cases often lingering without resolution for years, thus, overcrowding the correctional centres in various geopolitical zones.

“A data system reveals that federal offenders comprise less than 10% of correctional system inmates, leaving over 90% to state offences. Overcrowding of the correctional facilities has led to a huge revenue drain for successive governments, leading to prison dilapidation, criminalisation, and inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted ones.”