By Chidi Nkwopara, Owerri
Imo State Government says it is not happy that 2,600 inmates of the Correctional Centre in the state, are awaiting trial, as against a paltry 600 convicted persons.
Governor Hope Uzodimma, made his feelings known yesterday, through the state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Sir C. O. C. Akaolisa, during the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop tagged “Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2020”, arranged for Imo State judicial officers.
His words: “Our visit to the Correctional Centre, exposed the reality of a very serious defect in our criminal justice delivery system that produces a large number of awaiting trial inmates, compared to the number of convicted persons.
“As at today (yesterday), the record from our Correctional Centre in the state, indicate that there are about 2,600 awaiting trial inmates, as against about 600 convicted persons.
“What this translates to is the existence of a major gap between the rate of detention of accused and prosecution. It is either the machinery of prosecution and judgment delivery is slow or the rate of unwarranted detention has tremendously increased.”
While saying that his administration has made contact with international organizations, seeking assistance towards the justice transformation agenda, Uzodimma also disclosed that “presently, we are collaborating with the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, which has chosen Imo State as the pilot state in Nigeria, for Justice Transformation Programme”.
He explained that “their mission and ours, is to propel a justice transformation agenda in the state that will ensure justice delivery to the rural population of the state.”
Welcoming the participants earlier, the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Ijeoma Agugua, explained that “the Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2020, came into effect in March, 2020″, adding that it abolished the Criminal Procedure Law Cap 3, Law of Eastern Nigeria, 1963”.
Agugua further explained that this is the law the judicial officers should be applying in the criminal administration.
After making particular references to some sections of the law, Agugua promised that “separate rules shall be made in respect of the practice and procedure in the High Courts and Magistrate Courts, save where the procedure prescribed by such rules, applies equally to the High Courts and the Magistrate Courts”.