Prison decongestion: LAC collaborates with NBA
The Legal Aid Council (LAC) of Nigeria in the bid to ensure that Nigerian prisons are decongested has entered into partnership with the Nigeria Bar Association Unity Bar, FCT Chapter.
Director-General of LAC, Mrs. Joy Bob-Manuel, and the chairperson of the NBA Unity Bar, Mrs. Betty Umegbulem, visited Keffi Prisons in Nasarawa State, recently in company of some NBA officials and the council’s lawyers.
During the prison visitation, a total of 134 cases were collected by the council for prosecution in different courts within the state and environs.
Legal Aid Council of Nigeria is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Justice with the mandate of representing indigent citizens of the country in courts. Their jurisdiction covers both criminal and civil cases.
According to the DG LAC, the collaboration in the area of prison visitation is to enable the council deliver on its mandate. The council by its mandate is expected to visit prisons and detect those who need representation. Private lawyers who belong to the NBA and are desirous of representing indigent citizens are also partnering with LAC on probono basis and from the way things are going the council is equal to the task.
The NBA chairperson, Unity Bar of the FCT chapter on her part pointed out that the NBA is in collaboration with the Legal Aid Council on prison visitation to help identify clients and assist in prosecuting their cases. She stressed that apart from prisons, there are other areas Unity Bar reaches to people the aim being to inform them that NBA is interested in their affairs on the issue of cases of human rights violations in persons.
She explained that under the new era, they have established desk offices in prisons for tackling issues relating to human rights violations and that LAC has so far given them 15 cases for prosecution.
Deputy Controller James Lander revealed that Keffi Prison has a total number of 449 inmates out of which 326 are awaiting trial, while 123 are convicts. The prison has capacity for 160 and 80 bed spaces. This analysis is to show how congested Keffi Prison is. He however, disclosed that he has written to the chief judge requesting him to help decongest the prison because it is still under his jurisdiction.
Interestingly majority of the inmates are from FCT commands while prevailing crimes among them are armed robbery, culpable homicide among others.
In rounding off he stated that, with the good number of lawyers in their team, Legal Aid Council will no doubt help in decongesting the Keffi Prison and other Nigerian prisons in general.