By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja.

Stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice in Kogi State have commended the Acting Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Josiah Majebi, for the decision to embark on decongesting prisons in the state.

The commendation was conveyed at the Judiciary headquarters in Lokoja when the CJ hosted and informed them of his plan to embark on the exercise in the coming weeks.

The stakeholders comprising the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Correctional Service, Legal Aid Council, DSS and the Nigerian Bar Association appreciated the Chief Judge for the decision.

They however, noted that the exercise was long overdue saying that the last prison decongestion exercise was over two years.

The body said conducting the exercise would bring succour to some awaiting trial inmates as the major beneficiaries adding that they usually look forward to it.

Justice Majebi had told the stakeholders that despite the High Court’s lean purse, the law provides that prisons be periodically visited and decongested by the Chief Judge.

He said that the exercise was to make respite come the way of Awaiting Trial Inmates who might have been groaning in jail as a result of wrongful detention.

He said the exercise, which would be undertaken at the expense of other needs due to financial paucity, would include for the first time, review of cases of those awaiting trial at the Family Courts level.

“We have critically looked at our situation but have decided to make sacrifices on behalf of our wrongfully detained citizens in the prisons.

“We have decided to decongest the prisons and this depends and logistics which means funding. We have said on different occasions that after the payment of salaries and Judges allowances, the court barely subsists.

“However, we have chosen to suspend every other administrative need this time so as to discharge two fundamental duties of the High Court which are prisons decongestion and appeals sittings.

“So, we said if what is left after payment of salaries and allowances can accommodate them we will try to conduct them”, he said.

Majebi commended the state Ministry of Justice for charging offenders to court promptly unlike what it used to be.

He expressed delight that the Ministry was being proactive saying that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State, 2017 stipulates time within which offenders must be charged to court.

Majebi said non-compliance with the timeframe would make it particularly difficult for Magistrates who must act within the provisions of the law.

On the fate of the Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee which was inaugurated by the late Chief Judge, Justice Nasiru Ajanah, but had remained dormant, the CJ revealed that the committee would soon be made functional.

“Immediately I came in, I identified the committee as one of the mechanisms of administering criminal justice in the state. But when I asked if it was functioning, I was told it has not even met for once due to lack of fund.

“So, we are working along with the Attorney-General of the state and other relevant organs and we have included it in our proposal to His Excellency.

“So as soon as funding is made available, the committee will commence its activities immediately”, he added.

The stakeholders pledged to make the exercise fruitful and commended the CJ for the timing of the exercise.

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