Prison decongestion, caused majorly by unnecessary and reckless remand orders by magistrates, has become a national embarrassment, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, has said.
He said this yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 2018 All Nigeria Judges’ Conference of the Lower Courts at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja.
Justice Onnoghen said he directed the magistrates to refrain from issuing “reckless remand orders” where it appears that the police lack evidence to prosecute a criminal matter or where the courts do not possess the requisite jurisdiction to entertain such matter.
Represented by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour of the Supreme Court, the CJN added that he also recently directed that Chief Magistrates/Magistrates should pay frequent visits to police stations within their jurisdictions to inspect the cells and, where appropriate, free detainees who have no prima facie case against them or had been unduly detained without bail.
“The delay in our justice delivery system has been a source of great concern to me as it must be to you all. This unacceptable situation inevitably dictates the need for thorough and comprehensive reform of our justice sector to ensure access to justice at affordable costs and within a reasonable time,” he said.
Earlier, the Administrator of NJI, Justice R.P.I. Bozimo, described the choice of the theme, “Improving the Quality of Justice Administration in Lower Courts” as apt and timely considering the role the lower courts play in upholding constitutional democracy.