Justice Alloy Nwankwo, the Chief Judge of Ebonyi on Monday in Abakaliki freed 26 awaiting trial inmates of the Abakaliki prisons in a jail delivery exercise.
A Septuagenerian, Mr John Nomeh accused of alleged defilement of a minor was among the 26 inmates who were granted bail during the exercise.
Mr Emeka Anosike, Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Ebonyi chapter, who filed a bail application on behalf of the accused, said that the 70-year old had been on awaiting trial since June 27, 2018.
He informed the court that the accused had not been arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction.
He also told the court that the suspect had no case file, adding that information was not filed by the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the case.
He prayed the Chief Judge to discharge the accused for want of prosecution or on the alternative grant him bail.
Mr Isreal Alaobu, the DPP said that the offfence allegedly committed by the accused was punishable under the Child‘s Right Act of Ebonyi.
“My lord, the offfence the accused allegedly committed is punishable under the Child’s Rights act of Ebonyi.
“We have not filed information on the case because the police have not made the case file available to us and consequently, we are not opposed to the bail application,” Alaobu said.
The Chief Judge consequently granted the accused bail on ‘self’ recognition.
“The accused who has been on awaiting trial since June 27, 2018 without information filed on the matter and without a case file is hereby granted bail on self-recognition,” he said.
Also, Roseline Nwuguru, a 49-year-old female inmate accused of alleged murder was granted conditional bail.
Other suspects; Chidi Onwe and Solomon Aleke, accused of unlawful possession of fire arm; Sunday Igwe accused of house breaking on awaiting trial for over 18 months, Uche Nwankwo and Chinonso Igwe among other inmates were released.
The Chief Judge, who addressed newsmen at the end of the exercise, said that he carried out the function under the Criminal Justice Release from Prisons Act.
“In doing so, the law under which we are here today is known as, the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Special Provisions Act.
“Under that act, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the Chief Judge of a state have power to enter the prisons within their jurisdictions to conduct hearings in deserving cases.
“Under section 11A, the deserving cases are; that the detention of the person is manifestly unlawful or that the person detained has been in custody whether on remand or otherwise for a period longer than the maximum period he should have served upon conviction.
“It is under this section that the Chief Judge can exercise his powers by directing the officer in charge of that prison to release such people.
“It is not possible for the Chief Judge to release somebody who has not been convicted already by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“It is also not possible for the Chief Judge to come and open the prisons for all inmates to come out; I don’t think it is within his powers. We were very careful in dealing with cases such as capital offences.
“In capital offences, we prefer the people to go to regular courts; capital offences are armed robbery, murder, rape, kidnapping, cultism among others.
“Today a total of 16 inmates have been outrightly discharged, eight of them were granted bail on conditions while two inmates were granted bail on self-recognition.
“So, a total of 26 inmates or accused persons have been released from the Abakaliki prisons today,” Nwankwo said.
Mrs Emelia Oputa, Controller of Nigerian Prisons Services, Ebonyi Command commended the Chief Judge for releasing the inmates, noting that the exercise would decongest the over stretched facility.
She urged the freed inmates to make good use of their new freedom and shun further indulgence in crime or criminality.
“The exercise will make them have a heavy relief and it will also make them feel that they are being remembered.
“I want them to appreciate the gesture, abstain from criminal activities and should go and ‘sin’ no more.
“The exercise will decongest the prisons which has a capacity of of 387 and currently admits 1,179 both convicted and awaiting inmates,” Oputa said.