In order to decongest correctional facilities in the state, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, on Thursday ordered the release of 37 inmates from a list of 123 referred for consideration from the Oyo town Custodial Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Abolongo.
Abimbola, who was rounding off his two-day visit to the correctional facilities within the state, stated that though it is the fundamental function of the Chief Judge and the monitoring committee of the Oyo State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2016 to decongest prisons by sending home awaiting trial inmates who have spent more than the period they would serve if convicted in custody, criminals would not be released to wreak havoc on the on society.
Out of the 37 released, seven were released because of serious medical condition that are infectious; one was released and sentenced to two weeks community service in his area; two were granted bail, including a 63-year-old lawyer, David Oye Ogunyemi, who was alleged to have forged a court ruling to commit fraud, while two convicts were given parole for good behaviour based on Section 456 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, with 25 released on compassionate grounds.
The decongestion visit was on the invitation of the authorities of the correctional centre to help decongest the prison which had been suffering from the burden of overstretched facilities.
“Though it is our responsibility to decongest the prison, we are not here to release people whimsically and capriciously; we will not release people that cannot refrain from committing offences. Those that will be released are people that have overstayed in custody due to unreasonable delay in trial, those arrested irregularly and irregularly detained. We will always be careful in the performance of our duty,” Abimbola said.
Abolongo Custodial Centre was established to cater for 160 inmates but on Thursday, the prison had an open house of 452 inmates, a great percentage of which consists of awaiting trial inmates.
The Chief Judge reiterated that machineries had been put in place to speed up trial and ensure quick dispensation of justice in the state, adding that “it is trite that justice delayed is justice denied and justice stalled is justice quashed. We have put on ground a system that will ensure there will always be fair trial and despite congestion of coarse in court due to the system and not the officers, trial process in Oyo judiciary is very fast now.”
He urged magistrates to peruse the law well and make sure their decisions are only looking at the face of the law and not the face of man which he said may be described as Medusa, advising them not to take on cases that are beyond their jurisdiction and clogging up the courts.
The Deputy Comptroller of Prison, B. J. Bello stated that the visit was timely as the prison was over populated with awaiting trial inmates, adding that out of 452 inmates, only 66 were convicts while 386 were awaiting trial.