Kogi CJ gives courts 3 months to dispense pending criminal cases
The Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah has directed that all criminal cases pending before courts in Kogi State before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic must be determined within the next three months as the country ease the lockdown on the pandemic.
The CJ gave the order when he received the new controller of the Nigerian Correctional Service to the state, Mr Abjubakar Gurin, who paid him a familiarization visit in his office yesterday at the High Court headquarters, Lokoja.
While assuring the Service of judiciary support where necessary, the Chief Judge said the Judiciary’s existing cordial relationship with the Service would be maintained in order for the justice delivery system in the state to be effective. He said as a critical stakeholder in the justice delivery system, the fundamental role of the custodial centres would continue to be instrumental to smooth judicial processes in the state.
He lamented that the judiciary was adversely affected when prison facilities were under lock and refused to accept awaiting trial inmates from the courts during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown. He was therefore happy to hear that the Controller-General had reversed the order as a result of the ease of lockdown.
His reaction followed the disclosure by the new controller who informed him that the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service had okayed the acceptance of awaiting trial inmates attending courts back into the correctional centers as a result of the ease of lockdown.
The CJ said the refusal of the centres to receive inmates had affected the courts in manners that suspected criminals who were remanded in detention while attending trials could not be brought before the courts and returned after facing trial as is the normal practice.
While noting that it was not in the character of the courts to give hints of the possible outcome of the cases the suspects were being tried for, he said the closure of the prisons were not helpful to the case before the courts.
“You know it is not in the character of Judges to disclose the position of the court on the alleged crimes committed by the defendants who are facing trial. So it was difficult to say whether or not the inmates brought before the court would be returned to detention and this made it difficult for us to continue their trials in absence” he added.
He was therefore glad that that condition has been lifted by the Controller-General and directed that all the cases be dispensed with within the next three months so that those deserving freedom can be given and those who are to be convicted can know their fates stating that the issue of nonappearance of suspects in courts was vital to the cases before the courts.
“I am glad and really happy that you have mentioned that the Controller-General had directed that you should begin to accept inmates back into the prisons. This is an important area I was going to raise with you because we were concerned that awaiting trial inmates were in the prisons without knowing their fate. So we are happy that the Controller-General has reversed that order and that is why we are directing our Judges to make sure that all criminal cases pending before them before the lockdown are dispensed with within the next three months so that those deserving to be freed can regain their freedom and those who are to be convicted can know their fate.” he said.
Earlier, Mr Gurin had expressed happiness over the positive reports he said he received from all the formations and facilities of the Nigerian Correctional Service in the state about the judiciary. He said the reports he got when he visited the centres upon assumption of office was encouraging. The cordial relationship he learnt exists between the Service and the judiciary was impressive.
He was also particularly pleased that the officers at each of the centres gave a very good account of the robust relationship they enjoyed with the Judicial Officers in their respective divisions saying such bond was an indication that the justice delivery apparatchik in the state was elaborately encompassing. While also hoping to benefit from the cordiality throughout his stay in the state, he assured the Chief Judge of continuing from where his predecessors stopped in their dealings with the judiciary for the benefit of the state, the institutions and other stakeholders involved in the justice delivery process in the state.
He finally made reference to the infrastructural decay in the custodial centres in the state and sought the Chief Judge’s intervention for a remedy. He said he received several complaints from officers and inmates who cried bitterly about the conditions of the wards and cells in the prisons. He said while many have leaking roofs, several others were inhabitable because of their poor conditions. To this the Hon. Chief Judge said the usual problem of transportation of inmates has always taken attention but with this, “we will try our best in solving some of the problems we can and those we cannot, we will try to liaise with appropriate authorities to see what can be done.”
The Chief Judge who acknowledged the cordial relationship between the judiciary and state command of the Nigerian Correctional Service thanked the new Controller of the state for the visit and wished him well throughout the period of his stay in the state.