LAC pays courtesy call on Controller-General Nigeria Correctional Service
The Director-General Legal Aid Council, Mr. Abubakar B. Aliyu, paid a courtesy visit to the Controller-General Nigeria Correctional Service, Mr. Ja’afaru Ahmed at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Correction Service on the 27th February 2019. The Director-General came along with a team from the Council comprising of the Director Criminal Justice, Mr. Tunde Ikusagba, Director Civil Justice, Mr Achi Ayok, Director Prisons Decongestion, Mr Kenneth Mozea, Director International Operations, Ms Grace Nsot and Director Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. Bamidele Ibikunle.
The Director-General appreciated the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service for receiving the team and reiterated the Council’s resolve towards reducing the number of ATPs in the Prisons by partnering with the NCS and other agencies in the Nigerian Criminal Justice System. The DG appealed for a better synergy between the two agencies particularly in data sharing and access to prisons by LAC lawyers and paralegals. He said a robust relationship between prison officials and LAC staff will go a long way to enhance access to justice for those awaiting trial. The DG also asserted that justice is served when an inmate stands trial and at the end knows his fate as he is either convicted or acquitted and not when the inmate is incarcerated indefinitely for what seems to be forever and ends up forgotten in the system.
The Controller General congratulated the Mr. Abubakar Aliyu on his appointment as Director-General and reaffirmed the commitment of the Nigeria Correctional Service towards the decongestion of prisons. He said the NCS has been able to purchase vehicles to take prisoners to court. He also said that the NCS has been able to achieve a lot for prisoners such as skills acquisition and education as some were writing WAEC and some were students of the National Open University.
He welcomed the efforts of the Council towards reducing the number of awaiting trial inmates and informed the visiting team that as at 25th February 2019, the Nigerian Prisons had population of 71,711 out of which 51,120 were awaiting trial. He stated that overcrowding was a cause of concern to the NCS and the main source of conflict within the Prisons were those ATPs who had stayed for years in the prisons. He further stated the then Hon. Minister for Internal Affairs, Lt General Abdulrahaman Danbazau as well as the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, headed by Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, had all expressed concern over the issue of congestion in prisons and the modalities the Council was taking is a welcomed development. The Controller General also identified the major problem of ATPs as the inability to afford legal fees. He said that another problem was that some ATPs do pay the legal fees but the lawyers thereafter ‘disappear’ and don’t show up in court.
He expressed the commitment of the NCS towards a better working relationship with the Council. He assured the DG LAC that the Nigerian Correctional Service is open to the Council and access to its personnel is guaranteed and asked that any other requests by the Council should be communicated to the NCS for necessary circulars to be issued or action to be taken. He described the Council as a sister agency that is very crucial to the running of the Nigerian Correctional Service. He said they would continue to furnish the Council with month by month reports on the number of ATPs within the prisons. He also stated the NCS had launched its Information Management System and the number of ATPs will be uploaded and updated on a daily basis.