129 inmates on death row in Plateau prisons – NCoS

A legal practitioner suggested the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, to prevent every case from being taken to court.

The Plateau Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), says there are 129 inmates currently on death row in the various custodial centres in the state.

ASC Godfrey Longdiem, the command’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Sunday in Jos.

According to Longdiem, “the figure consists of 128 males and one female, adding that 700 inmates are awaiting trial in the various prison facilities across the state.

“We also have 700 inmates who are awaiting trial in our various facilities, and these consist of 691 males and nine females.”

He further explained that those convicted for short terms were 55 and those serving long-term sentences were 192.

Longdiem said those serving life sentences were 49, adding that there were no minors among them.

Also speaking with NAN in Jos, Steve Aluko, the Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), who decried the dearth of prison facilities, called for reforms in the sector.

Aluko stressed that custodial centres all over Nigeria were in dire need of a total overhaul.

“This is given the deteriorating condition of the country’s correctional centres that have featured more inmates awaiting trial than those actually convicted.

“Certainly, the Nigerian prison system is in dire need of urgent reforms to rid it of the perennial problem of congestion and its adverse consequences on the health, wellbeing and human rights of the inmates,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, in Taraba, stakeholders, who claimed there were no inmates on death row in the state’s correctional facilities, however, decried the high number of those incarcerated in the centres, calling for the restoration of their human dignity.

Malam Aminu Mohammed, a legal practitioner, told NAN that there were no death row inmates because those convicted of capital offences such as murder, were serving life sentences as maximum punishment.

Mohammed however, said this had contributed to the high number of inmates, especially those awaiting trial, making the correctional centres in Taraba unsuitable for human habitation.

He called for increased manpower on the bench and judicial independence, to ensure there were more judges and magistrates, as well as adequate funds, to ensure quick dispensation of cases, in order to decongest correctional centres.

However, all efforts by a NAN correspondent to get the NCoS officials in Jalingo to confirm that there were no death row inmates in correctional centres in Taraba, proved abortive as the PRO, Ken Nnanna, declined comment saying she was not authorised to speak on the matter.

Raymond Ibrahim, the Executive Director, Centre for Justice and Development, an NGO, who described the centres as dilapidated, overcrowded, and with terrible living conditions that fall short of places for human habitation, suggested that the electronic system of justice dispensation was the way out.

According to Ibrahim, most inmates are awaiting trial due to the slow pace of justice dispensation in the country.

“The world is now technologically driven, and justice dispensation cannot be left behind if the country must get it right in justice administration.

“A situation where case files move from one court to another, and sometimes get mixed up or missing due to years of prosecution, can be addressed if the process becomes digital,” he said.

While commending the few judges that had started writing and delivering judgments virtually, Ibrahim called on the government to support a full transition from analogue to digital justice dispensation, to ensure speedy and efficient dispensation of justice and decongestion of correctional centres.

Bridget Jonathan, also a legal practitioner, suggested the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, to prevent every case from being taken to court as part of measures to decongest correctional centres.

Jonathan therefore, urged the government to support traditional rulers in strengthening the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in communities.

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