The Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta L. Abimbola has said that the power to release inmates from prisons in a view to decongest the prisons is not a whimsical exercise as it has specific guidelines which ensure that criminals are not released into society to cause menace.
Justice Abimbola made this known on Wednesday at the Agodi Custodial Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service where he went to free deserving inmates in the exercise of his power of release from custody as provided in Chapter 40, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Oyo State.
The Chief Judge explained that it is unencouraging that the team comes to prison to release because it is the judiciary’s responsibility to ensure offenders are punished under the law, adding that factors that lead to release of inmates allow inmates that had stayed for more years than they would if convicted of the alleged crimes and those whose circumstances of arrest were unconstitutional because their trial will also be unconstitutional to be released unconditionally.
The exercise was the first in a two-day event which will terminate at Abolongo Correctional Centre at Oyo on Thursday with the vision of decongesting the already overstretched prison and ensure that justice is seen to have been manifestly done.
Justice Abimbola who stated that the visit of the team was as a result of a call by the prison to help reduce the burden of congestion stated that the exercise will ensure that people who should face trial based on offence committed are made to face their trial, adding that there is a process to fast track trials before the court through special courts that will sit in correctional centres to hear simple matters so that prison facilities will not be overstretched.
In his opening address, the Comptroller of the Oyo State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Tosin Akinrojumu, said they had to cry for help because the Correctional Centres were highly congested, adding that the Agodi Correctional Centre was established in 1894 to cater for 390 inmates but on Wednesday morning, the centre had 1276 inmates.
Those that were considered include those that have health issues that can affect others and those who had spent around eight to nine years on a matter before the Magistrates Court.
The list referred to the Chief Judge and the committee for consideration for the decongestion exercise was 1079 out of which 100 was considered and 32 were released.
Out of the 32, three were released on medical grounds, a mother and her baby were released on bail to Justice Development and Peace Commission, others were released for factors ranging from long stay, delayed trial, being remanded on cases that should be settled as civil action and not criminal while some of the young ones were handed over to non-governmental organisations for rehabilitation and training.
Also, the Chief Judge reassigned four cases to himself to give it speedy trial, stating that trial in the cases will commence on Friday.
The released inmates were charged not to take for granted the mercy they got even though some did not deserve it and never go back to their vomit.
The exercise continues Thursday at Abolongo custodial centre in Oyo.