The Enugu State Government has approved the sum of N10 million for the decongestion of prisons in the state.
The State Commissioner for Information, Dr Godwin Udeuhele, said this on Thursday while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the state executive council’s (Exco) meeting.
Udeuhele said the money would be used to contract legal practitioners to handle bail cases and for the welfare of detainees.
The council directed that the various chapters of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in the state as well as legal based organisation should be contacted for support and cooperation, he said.
According to him, the council has also directed that the NBAs and other organisations as well as private lawyers will be engaged to handle cases of bail for those awaiting trial.
He said that the council also directed the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Milletus Eze, to liaise with the Chief Judge of the state to conduct periodic jail deliveries in the prisons and cases of awaiting trials.
Speaking, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Milletus Eze, said that, “the N10 million is just a palliative to take care of the three prisons in the state’’.
He said such services would also be extended to indigenes serving various prison terms in other states across the country.
“The major effect of the decongestion will come from jail deliveries that will reduce pressures on prisons in the state,” he said.
Eze said that no fewer than 300 prison inmates from the prisons in Nsukka, Enugu and Oji River were released during the 2016 jail deliveries.
He said that the state governor also granted amnesty to some prisoners toward the end of 2016.
“This has gone a very long way to decongest the prisons; but because crime wave is not static, the prisons soon get congested again,” he said.
He said that the Federal Government as the sole owner of the prisons did not anticipate the number of prisoners.
The attorney-general called for interplay between the federal and state governments to address the challenges that led to prison congestion.
“The prison in Enugu has less than four vehicles with which they convey inmates to the various courts in the state.
“There are more than 20 magistrates’ courts in Enugu urban alone and others in parts of the state. The state has 18 high courts with criminal jurisdiction.
“The prison authorities are supposed to convey prisoners to all these courts for their cases but do not have facilities to do that,” he said.
Eze said that the Constitution of the country had made it explicit that inmates must be present during their trials, adding that the dearth of facilities was mostly the problem affecting quick dispensation of justice.
He said that it would be difficult to determine the number of inmates that would benefit from the N10-million-prison-decongestion largess.
“The number of beneficiaries will depend on the willingness of the lawyers willing to accept the amount that the government will be ready to pay them as legal fees,” Eze said.