About nine inmates in Gombe State have regained their freedom, following the intervention of the Criminal Justice Committee which reviewed over 600 cases.
The Chairman of the committee, the Chief Judge of Gombe State, Justice Hakila Heman said over 600 cases were reviewed and nine of them, who were charged for various offenses had been released.
Justice Heman said “while some of the inmates were in detention unlawfully, others stayed longer than expected or were on the police awaiting list for investigations.”
He urged relevant agencies to expedite action on the cases in order to bring them for prosecution, assuring them of government’s continued exercise towards decongesting the Prison.
The initial capacity of Gombe Prison is 379 but presently, it is overcrowded as more than 1,041 inmates are residing in the prison.
Records have it that 140 inmates are undergoing trial, 61 awaiting trial, 228 convicted and 22 sentenced to death, including one female.
This poses grave danger to the health of the inmates and the prison officials and workers.
Although the prison service is under the Federal Government Jurisdiction, the Gombe State Government however set up the Criminal Justice Committee, made up of representatives of stakeholders in the justice sector, such as Area Court Judges, Magistrates, the police, the Ministry of Justice and the Nigerian Bar Association.
Justice Heman said the government would be carrying out similar duties more regularly.
“I have also noted that most of the cases are with the police awaiting completion of investigation and many others with the state Ministry of Justice… I want to call on these agencies to expedite action on all cases awaiting investigation,” Justice Halika stated.
According to the Prison Official in Charge of Gombe Prison, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed Abba, it has been over three years since this approach was used in decongesting the prison.
He said basically the Chief Judge and his team were in the prison to ensure the review of the cases of inmates and see how those who deserved to be free would be granted that.
“For the past three years now we have not witnessed this kind of session and I want to commend the efforts of the Chairman of the Criminal Justice System, which is the Chief Judge of Gombe State and all the stakeholders, as he promised that he will be coming often to review cases with the aim of decongesting the prison. I think it’s a welcome development,” Mr. Abba explained.
The Comptroller of the Prison, Ahmadu Adamu attributed the congestion to delay of release of advice from the Department of Public Prosecution and handling the cases by the court that do not have jurisdiction of the cases.
Adamu said “the congestion may lead to inability of proper rehabilitation, outbreak of diseases and rape among others.’’
The Comptroller of the Prison, Ahmadu Adamu was represented by his Deputy, Mr Haruna Lawrence at the event.