The chief judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, freed nine prisoners, yesterday and directed magistrates in the state to deploy non-custodial sentencing for minor offenders to decongest the prisons.
Five inmates out of 25 shortlisted were released from Medium Security Prisons.
This included one Saidi Raimi from Kwara who was released to a mental home.
Four out of 10 others shortlisted, were released from Maximum Security Prisons, Kirikiri, having been in custody between eight and 11 years.
They were said to have stayed longer in custody than the number of years they would have spent if sentenced by the court for offences charged.
The chief judge told the released inmates to, henceforth, be of good behaviour and stay away from crime.
She advised them to desist from any act that would bring them back to prison.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Sections 1(1) of the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) Act, 2007 as well as Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, you are hereby released from custody today, Dec 6, 2018.
“I want you to, henceforth, be of good behaviour. Make sure you don’t breach any law again. Go out there and sin no more”, she admonished them.
Although, 10 women were shortlisted from the female section for release, she regretted that none qualified for release.
She said that their trials had commenced and they are presently on bail.
One of them, Uche Emeasoba, however, had her bail conditions reduced from N1million to N500, 000 and the sureties reduced to one.
Justice Oke explained that those granted amnesty were qualified for release after a thorough review of their case files.
She also said the chief registrar had been directed to issue a circular immediately on her instruction to the magistrate courts.
“All magistrates would, henceforth, be monitored to ensure compliance with the directive,” she said.
Oke also said that the state government was contemplating the establishment of restorative justice centres in the state.
“All simple cases need not go to police. The restorative justice centre is a mediation centre.
“If there is an agreement and the guilty one can pay for a missing tooth, why go to court? This is a way of decongesting the prisons,” she said.
The Lagos State Controller of Prisons, Mr Tunde Ladipo, while responding to questions from journalists, commended the chief judge for bringing hope to the inmates and her efforts to decongest the prisons.
Ladipo noted the efforts of the Nigerian Prisons Service to decongest the prisons.
He said that was why the Federal Government set up the Presidential Committee on Prerogative of Mercy for deserving inmates.
Earlier, the deputy controller of Prisons, Medium Security Prisons, Kirikiri, Rev Freedman Ben-Rabbi, had requested the chief judge to assist them with the provisions of court cells within the premises of Igbosere High Court, Isolo and Ejigbo Magistrates’ Courts.
Ben-Rabbi and assistant controller of prisons (ACP) Christy Diala and Sp Joda Olatunbosun of the Female Prisons and Maximum Security Prisons respectively, appealed to the Chief Judge for logistic support for easy movement and prosecution of the inmates.