Enugu State Government has approved N10 million for prison decongestion in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information, Dr Godwin Udeuhele, made this known on Thursday in Enugu after the State Executive Council meeting.
Udeuhele said the fund would be used to contract legal practitioners to handle bail cases of awaiting trial inmates.
“The council directed that the Nigerian Bar Association, other organisations and private lawyers, who will be willing to accept honorarium be engaged to handle cases of bail of those awaiting trial.
“The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice was further directed to liaise with the Chief Judge of the state to conduct periodic jail deliveries in the prisons,” Udeuhele said.
Also briefing newsmen, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Milletus Eze, said that “the N10 million is just a palliative in the sense that we have three prisons in the state.
“The major effect of the decongestion will come from jail deliveries that will reduce the pressure on prisons,” Eze said.
Eze said that no fewer than 300 inmates of Nsukka, Enugu and Oji River prisons were released during the 2016 jail deliveries.
According to him, the state governor also granted amnesty to some prisoners toward the end of the last year.
“This has gone a very long way to decongest the prisons but because crime wave is not static, the prisons soon get congested again,” he said.
He said that the Federal Government, as the sole owners of the prisons, did not anticipate the number of prisoners.
The attorney general called for interplay between the federal and state governments to address the challenge of prison congestion.
“The prison in Enugu has less than four vehicles with which they convey inmates to the various courts in the state.
“There are more than 20 magistrates’ courts in Enugu urban alone and others in parts of the state. The state has 18 High Courts with criminal jurisdiction.
“The prison authorities are supposed to convey prisoners to all these courts for their cases but do not have facilities to do that,” he said.
Eze said that the constitution of the country made it explicit that inmates must be present during their trials, adding that the dearth of facilities were mostly the clog in quick dispensation of justice.
He said that it would be difficult to determine the number of awaiting trial inmates that would benefit from the N10 million prison de-congestion funds.
“The number of beneficiaries will be dependent on the willingness of the lawyers to accept the pittance that will be paid to them as fees,” Eze said.