The Deputy Chief Registrar 1(Probate and Community) in the Oyo State judiciary, Mrs Olumide Ogunrin on Thursday revealed that no fewer than 137 convicts has been sentenced to community service in the state between October 2017 and February 2019 under the Community Service Punishment Law(CSPL) of 2016 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Law(ACJL) of Oyo State 2017.
Ogunrin stated this at a stakeholders annual evaluation and agenda setting workshop for relevant actors in the community service implementation in Oyo state organised by the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan.
She said the community service scheme in Oyo State came into being in August 2017 after the passage into law of the CSPL 2016 and the ACJL 2017.
She explained that the law is applicable to only offenders who are charged with simple offences/misdemeanors/offences with punishment not exceeding three years; who must have been found guilty, that are eligible for community service.
She however pointed out that the sentence is at the discretion of the presiding Magistrate.
“Only two states in Nigeria; Lagos and Oyo have embraced community service as a sentencing option, however Oyo state is the first state to have the community service scheme as a court connected facility under the auspices if the Honourable Chief Judge of Oyo State, Honourable Justice M.L. Abimbola and the Oyo state judiciary.
“This has made it very easy for the Magistrates and Presidents Grade “A” customary courts to buy in and make full use of the community service program me,” she said.
According to Ogunrin, some of the challenges facing the scheme includes lack of adequate logistics, no law enforcement agency helping field officers, lack of computers to input data at the community service centers and lack of training tools and centers for rehabilitated convicts.
She commended the Chief Judge of Oyo State for his “unwavering support and commitment” to the programmes and JPDC Ibadan, saying “I believe that working together; we can do more and achieve greater success while ensuring that at the end, justice is served.”
Speaking at the event, the programme officer, Community Service Programme(CSP), JPDC Ibadan, Mrs Olajumoke Oladoyinbo stated that the Community Service as an Alternative Punishment to Imprisonment Programme of JDPC Ibadan is in its third phase.
“The first two phases focused on policy advocacy with the goal of getting the bill for the use of community service punishment passed into law while this current phase is focused on implementation, management and administration of the community service punishment law and scheme,” she said.
Oladoyinbo highlighted some of the achievements of the CSP of JDPC Ibadan to include production of research instruments and tools, joint mentoring visit with the judiciary to all community service units in the state, advocacy actions with the judiciary for the constitution of the state committee on community service and creation of the community service data bank.
She said the major challenge suffered by the scheme is that “offenders serve their community service sentence only within court premises, when they should be serving within communities and shortage of staff.”
Olalekan Olagunju, the chairman Oyo State House of Assembly committee on judiciary urged all the stakeholders to come forward with ideas on how improve the ACJL. He said the House of Assembly will welcome input from everybody and commended the role the JDPC Ibadan played in ensuring the passage of the ACJL. He also commended the judiciary in the state for “taking the bull by the horns” in the implementation of the CSPL and ACJL.
In their goodwill messages, the president, Oyo State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Eni Esan and the Oyo State Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Ola Adeoye respectively said the workshop was to see how how far stakeholders have complied with the provisions of the community service law. Both of them said the ACJL should be reviewed because some sections need to be amended having been implemented for two years.
Participants at the workshop include judges, magistrates, presidents of Grade “A” customary courts, counsellors, lawyers, representatives from the Nigerian Prisons Service and the Nigerian Police, CSP team of JDPC Ibadan, court registrars and community service officers.