The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, has observed that the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) is facing myriad of challenges ranging from poor funding, overcrowding to so many plights of awaiting trial inmates.
This is even as he said in order to decongest prisons, the judiciary in the FCT would not only be fair and firm, but also more liberal in granting bail.
Justice Bello stated this at an event to mark the commencement of the FCT 2016/2017 legal year, insisting that in order to ensure that imprisonment was not seen as another hell on earth, prisons in the country should be modelled to reflect best practices.
The Chief Judge stated that his visits to prison facilities at Keffi, Kuje and Suleja brought him face to face with the myriad of challenges facing the Prison Service.
According to him, unlike other agencies involved in the administration of justice, the Nigeria Prison Service hardly gets assistance from other organs of government.
“Its allocation is grossly inadequate to address the enormous problems and challenges confronting the institution occasioned by many years of neglect,” he said.
He informed that in order to address overcrowding in prisons, he had encouraged judges, magistrates and area court judges not only to be fair and firm, but also more liberal in granting bails.
Bello further disclosed that he would set up panels of judges to address the backlog of cases within specific time-frames in criminal trials.
He said, “On our part, we will continue to address those aspects that are within our powers. As a measure to address overcrowding, I have encouraged judges, magistrates and area court judges to be fair and firm, but at the same time, more liberal in the grant of bail so that prisons will be decongested
“Adequate time shall be given for prosecution to prepare and present their cases within a time frame and same shall apply to the defence
“There will be no hesitation to strike out any matter where there is no commitment to diligent prosecution.”