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Hope Behind Bars Africa equip lawyers on indigent detainees

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja 
26 June 2022   |   2:40 am
Stakeholdes are worried over the violation of human rights in the country, especially the growing list of people kept in prisons without timely trial.

Stakeholdes are worried over the violation of human rights in the country, especially the growing list of people kept in prisons without timely trial.

With the deplorable state of the nation’s prison system, a nonprofit organisation, Hope Behind Bar Africa said over 70 per cent of those behind bars are awaiting trials.

The stakeholders, who converged on Abuja at the organisation’s capacity-building workshop aimed at equipping human rights lawyers, stressed the need for urgent action on the issue.

The Nigerian Correctional Service had during the 2020 Presidential Pardon and Clemency to inmates and ex-convicts said that 51, 983 inmates are awaiting trial out of the prison’s total population of 73, 726 inmates.

Earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics had said that from 2011 to 2015, 72.5 per cent of prison inmates were serving time without being sentenced.

While Hope Behind Bar Africa at the event launched “Legal Representation for Indigent Detainees (A New Wig’s Pre-trial Guide),” a book targeting to douse the challenges, the executive director of the group, Funke Adeoye, said that the lack of experience by police officers handling these cases remains a source of concern.

Adeoye said while non-police lawyers are barred from prosecuting cases because of the Arbitration of Criminal Justice Act, the Police are understaffed in terms of lawyers who are supposed to handle criminal cases.

“We need more experienced hands during prosecution work, one of the reasons we’ve had so many critical cases is because some of the policemen who handle these cases are not particularly learned.”

Senior Supervising Solicitor, Administration of Criminal Justice, Genevieve Ike Johnson, while speaking on, “Strengthening the capacity of young Human rights lawyers in Nigeria” stated that the organisation has been working on this criminal justice and human rights issue for the past four years, and has noticed certain gaps and a high number of pre-trial detention.

Johnson said it is unacceptable for over 70 per cent of people behind bars to be awaiting trial when Nigeria has a lot of untapped talents in terms of lawyers, who could be trained to ease pre-trials and give justice.

She further noted that the launching of the handbook, which is a small guide for lawyers that are fresh from law school would provide leeways when they go to court.

Johnson also noted that the proper process must be followed for quick trials of detainees. “No one must be detained for more than 48 hours except there’s an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, for any reason that it’s not possible for the accused to be arranged.
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