Two organizations, Hope Behind Bars Africa and Legend Golden Care Foundation, have unveiled an initiative for the speedy dispensation of justice for detainees in Nigeria.
The initiative, tagged: “Accelerating justice reform in Nigeria,” was launched on Thursday at the Nigeria Correctional Service Federal Capital Territory Command.
The event was attended by the Executive Director of Legend Golden Care Foundation, Kanayo Olisa Metuh; the Executive Director of Hope Behind Bars Africa, Funke Adeoye; the Comptroller of Corrections ably represented by the Deputy Comptroller, Human Resources, Comptroller of Corrections, Austin Ujadughele, and other top officials of the foundations and correctional service.
Speaking at the event, Kanayo Olisa-Metuh said both foundations are passionate about decongesting the correctional facilities in Nigeria.
She described the current situation in the country, where about 70 percent of inmates in correctional facilities are awaiting trials, as totally unacceptable, adding that Hope Behind Bars Africa and Legend Golden Care Foundation are very passionate about stemming the tide.
Explaining how this would be achieved, she stated that the Foundations would leverage on the implementation of the existing laws of Nigeria, noting that there seems to be a disconnect from the point where the laws are enacted to the implementation of the laws.
She said, “I know that the 2019 Act of the Correctional Service stated that there are two arms of the correctional facilities; the Custodial and Non-Custodial. Now, while the Custodial is running like it should, it’s almost like the Non-Custodial exists only on paper and it poses a lot of problems because, going through that act, I got a sense that the writers of the act acknowledged the fact that while every single crime should be punished but not every single crime deserves incarceration.
“Hence, they came up with Restorative Justice, they came up with Community Service but I’m aware that those things are more on paper than they are actually being carried out. And we find it very dangerous that first time offenders that have committed a misdemeanor are sent to Correctional Facilities and end up spending a lot of time with convicted felons. Now, the unintended consequence of that singular act is that the rate of recidivism is very high.
“One of the things we are really advocating is the enforcement of already existing laws.”
Speaking further, she explained that the Legend Golden Care Foundation and Hope Behind Bars Africa will support the Correctional Facilities with items to kickstart their community service.
Some of the items donated to the facility include rakes, hoes, cutlasses, baskets, files and folders, brooms, among others.
Also speaking, Funke Adeoye said that the Foundations would continue its advocacy with stakeholders to address the challenges facing the Correctional Service.
She further said that the challenges currently being faced by Nigeria in its criminal justice system requires a multi-pronged approach, and assured that the Foundations will continue to provide the much-needed support to tackle these challenges.
She added, “We are here to see how we can further the work that’s been done in the Non-Custodial section in line with section 37 of the Correctional Service Act. I will say that the donations we will be doing today is just the beginning. We will continue to support the correctional service at the non custodial unit as time goes on
“The challenges we face in Nigeria’s criminal justice system necessitate a multi-pronged approach, which is why we are here today, collaborating and working with the Correctional Service.
“We will continue to work with other arms of the justice system like the Judiciary, the Legislature and other stakeholders to ensure that all our desires for the justice system in Nigeria come to pass.”
Earlier in his address of welcome, Ujadughele hailed both organizations for their intervention in the Correctional Services.
He also called on other organizations and stakeholders to emulate the support provided by Hope Behind Bars Africa and Legend Golden Care Foundation.
This support, he noted, would help the Correctional Service to discharge its mandate in an efficient manner to the country.
He said “It has become very important that the Nigerian Correctional Service has moved from punitive to corrections and that is by the Act that was put in place, signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019 and it has given room for Nigeria Correctional Service to now operate two faculties-the Custodial and Non-Custodial faculties. And I want to say the Legend Golden Care Foundation and Hope Behind Bars Africa have come to partner with Nigeria Correctional Service by sending us items for the work.”
At the end of the event, all the stakeholders expressed optimism for more robust partnerships that will accelerate the justice system in Nigeria