The Oyo State judiciary has introduced the parole system into its administration of criminal justice to further aid the bid to decongest the prison, speed up the justice process and give deserving inmates a chance to make restitution and make something out of their lives
The Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola made this known on Tuesday while speaking at the Agodi Prisons in Ibadan where he had gone to exercise his statutory duty and exercise his constitutional power of release.
The parole system according to him is provided for in the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Oyo state, Part 43, Section 456 which provides that where the Comptroller General of prison raises a report recommending that a prisoner sentenced and serving his sentence in prison is of good behavior and where he has served at least one third of his prison term where he is sentenced to imprisonment for a term of at least 15 years or life imprisonment, the court after listening to prosecution and prison authority, can order that his sentence be suspended with or without conditions and the prisoner will be released from prison.
Justice Abimbola stated that if prison authority makes use of this act, it will help the system, adding that his visit to the prison is not only to ensure that justice is but is manifestly seen to be done, adding that Section 36 (5) of the law holds that suspects are presumed innocent until proved otherwise and when suspects are unduly incarcerated and put behind bars for longer than necessary, the law provides for the release of such suspects.
“The exercise of the power of release is not based on our whims and caprices. It has its origin in law, Chapter 40 of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the laws of Oyo state and the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Act provides that if the Chief Judge is satisfied that the detention of a suspect is manifestly unlawful or a suspect is detained for a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment his offence attracts if convicted.
“Or if inmates yet to be convicted for bailable offences have stayed in custody beyond a reasonable period or attempted robbery or cases with unduly delayed trial in cases where magistrates are not empowered to grant bail or uncases of inmates awaiting trial for bailable offences, such people can be found worthy of release,’ he stated.
Justice Abimbola stated that it is better for 10 guilty people to be set free than for one innocent person to be incarcerated unduly, urging any of the inmates that qualify for pardon to desist from crime so that they would not find their ways back behind bars, adding that in such cases, they would not get a chance of the prerogative of mercy.
Also speaking Comptroller of prison in Oyo state, Tosin Akinromoju stated that the CJ’s visit is timely as the prison facility is already overstretched. According to him, the prison built in the pre-colonial era was designed to cater for 300 inmates but as at Tuesday morning that the Chief Judge visited, the prison had 1150 inmates with only 100 convicted.
The convicted are 95 male, 15 females while the remaining 950 are awaiting trial inmates.
At the end of the sitting, Justice Abimbola released 30 inmates; 25 were released
unconditionally, three were released on bail, one was sent to the remand home on age basis and one was released on bail to continue with his trial.
Those released include people that were wrongfully charged, those that had stayed beyond their prison sentence if convicted and those that were supposed to be brought on a civil case and not by a criminal code.
The exercise continues today at the Abolongo Prisons in Oyo town.