Thirty-one inmates of Abakaliki prisons were, on Friday, released by the Chief Judge of Ebonyi, Justice Alloy Nwankwo.
Seventeen of the inmates were granted conditional bail, one on self recognition, while 13 were discharged. Nwankwo said his action was carried out under powers conferred on him by the Criminal Justice Release from Prison Act of Nigeria.
“The law empowers the Chief Justice of the Federation and State Chief Judges to release inmates who have spent more than the required period of their offences in prisons awaiting trial.”
The Chief Judge called for the return of the policy under which witnesses were paid to testify before law courts.
“If a police witness, for instance, is transferred from Abakaliki to Maiduguri, he would find it difficult to offset the expenses required of him to come to Abakaliki for a testimony. This process will lead to speedy trial of cases and ultimately help in the decongestion of prisons in the country.”
Nwankwo advised the police and justice ministry officials to collaborate, to ensure speedy trial of cases.
“Information concerning accused persons should be filed on time before the courts, to ensure that they do not over stay in prisons awaiting trial.”
Colombus Omenuko, the Controller of the Nigerian Prisons Service in Ebonyi, commended the organisers of the exercise, adding that it would decongest the Abakaliki prisons.
“With 31 out of the 732 inmates released from the prisons, there will be space for easy relaxation of inmates,” he said. “We are looking forward to the release of more inmates by October 1, due to the list submitted to the Federal Government’s panel on prerogative of mercy.”
Eziaku Eze, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Ebonyi, called for the duplication of information on accused persons.
“In Enugu, for instance, information on accused persons are duplicated, with one sent to the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the other to the courts,” he said.
Sunday Jacob, one of the released inmates, thanked God for his freedom, and promised to turn a new-leaf. 10 inmates of the Afikpo prisons were released in a similar exercise conducted of Thursday.