The Senate has endorsed the takeover of the Prisons Decongestion Programme of the Federal Government by the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
It also adopted the recommendation for amendment of the constitution to remove prisons from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List to allow states to build and maintain prisons.
The Senate approval followed its consideration and ratification of the report of the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Interior, and Police Affairs in Abuja on Wednesday.
The joint committee was mandated to review the various measures taken by the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) to decongest prisons and make appropriate recommendations.
The joint committee conducted a public hearing on ``the plight of persons awaiting trial in Nigerian prisons’’ following a motion considered by the Senate plenary on Oct. 25, 2011.
The Senate approved the proposal for increase in funding of the NPS to address the decay of infrastructure and boost the welfare of inmates and prison officers.
It further approved that all state governors, all Chief Judges should visit the prisons, at least twice a year, to use the exercise of the power of Prerogative of Mercy.
The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Umaru Dahiru (PDP- Sokoto) said the Prisons Decongestion Programme had failed despite the huge sum of money sunk into it.
He said that the Legal Aid Council had the statutory mandate to represent indigent Nigerians since most of the cases were abandoned by lawyers contracted by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
``Since 2006 till date, a whopping sum of N8.7 billion has so far been expended on the Programme with little to show for it.
``The Legal Aid Council, if well funded, can effectively discharge this mandate on a sustainable basis than embarking on an interventionist programme that was to all intents and purposes unsustainable.'’
The Senate also on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Justices Clara Ogunbiyi and Musa Muhammed as justices of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, had forwarded the nomination of Justice Aloma Muktar for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in conformity with Section 123 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Justice Muktar, when confirmed, would take over from the current CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, who retires on July 13, 2012.
Jonathan also forwarded the names of Justices Kumai Akaahs and Stanley Alagoa for confirmation as Justices of the Supreme Court.