Prison controller advocates use of ADR in resolving minor crimes


Mrs Emelia Oputa, the Controller of Nigerian Prisons Service in Ebonyi, has advocated the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in resolving minor crimes.
Oputa who said that adoption of ADR would help in reducing prison congestion also advocated for regular jail delivery to hear deserving cases.
She spoke on Tuesday in Abakaliki in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Oputa said that adoption of ADR to resolve minor criminal cases would ensure that only persons involved in alleged capital offences were charged to court, while lesser crimes were resolved at informal levels.
“If you visit prisons across the country, you will be shocked to see people who have spent months or years in prison awaiting trial for trivial cases such as quarrel, affray, ordinary theft, among others.
“These cases could have been easily settled at the family, village or community levels, using the alternative dispute resolution approach and traditional legal system of dispute resolution.
“Sadly, most of these cases end up with the police arraigning the victims to court sometimes without carrying out diligent investigation.
“The suspects end up staying months or years in prison awaiting trial,” Oputa said.
She said that the Abakaliki Prison built to accommodate 387 inmates was now housing no fewer than 1,000 inmates, and called on the relevant authorities to act fast and address the situation.
“The Abakaliki Prison built during the colonial period was originally designed to accommodate 387 inmates.
“ The number of prisoners inside the yard have risen above 1,000, mounting undue pressure to the facility,” Oputa said.
The controller appealed to the police and Ministry of Justice to ensure that case files of inmates awaiting trials were speedily processed to avoid keeping them in custody without trial.
“Our duty is to keep custody of suspects brought to the prisons and to produce them when they are needed in courts.
“Unfortunately, some suspects under our custody do not have case files and as a result are made to stay in custody without accessing the court.
“An accused is presumed innocent until found guilty by court, hence denying inmates fair hearing infringe on their fundamental rights.
“The police and Ministry of Justice should ensure that all preliminary investigations and processes needed before arraignment of criminal suspects are done before charging them to court to enhance speedy trial of their cases,” she added.
Oputa commended Ebonyi Government for embarking on the building of new prison yard, which she said, was at an advanced stage of construction.
She said that during the 2016 attempted jailbreak by inmates, Gov. Dave Umahi during his visit, promised to construct additional prison yard to decongest the Abakaliki Prison.
“I am happy to announce that the governor has graciously kept to his promise and that work on the new prison facility has started and is now at an advanced stage.
“When completed, the problem of overcrowding in Abakaliki Prison will be a thing of the past.
“The governor has also intervened in many areas to enhance the conditions of the Abakaliki Prison and welfare of the inmates. (NAN)