TWENTY-ONE awaiting trial inmates at the Kirikiri Medium Prisons, regained their freedom in Lagos, yesterday.
The gesture was at the initiative of the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Oluwafunmilayo Atilade.
She said the release of the inmates was part of the efforts to decongest the prisons and done in exercise of the powers conferred on her under Section 1 (1) of the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007.
Justice Atilade was accompanied by Justices Kudirat Jose, Lateef Lawal-Akapo, Oluwatoyin Ipaye, Aishat Opesanwo, Sedoten Ogunsanya, all senior members of the judiciary, and also with them were the Chief Registrar, Emmanuel Ogundare and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Idowu Alakija.
The Lagos Chief Judge said the freed inmates were later admonished to be of good behaviours henceforth.
Speaking further, Justice Atilade said: “I release all you today 17th day of June, 2015 from custody pursuant to the powers conferred on me and admonish you to ‘go and sin no more’, she said. She also urged them to keep away from crime stressing that the state government has zero tolerance for crime.
While most of the inmates released had spent more time in prison custody than they would have if they were arraigned, tried and convicted of the crimes for which they were detained; Atilade told other inmates awaiting trial not to lose hope in the system.
She then promised them that the system would continue to review their cases with a view to releasing those who have spent more time in prison than they would have if convicted.
She also reinstated her commitment to set up an effective justice delivery system where courts work efficiently and the prisons decongested.
She promised to make her visits to the prison to release inmates a continuous exercise.
Justice Atilade said: “The state government is committed to a crime-free Lagos and anyone found committing crime will be adequately arrested and prosecuted. So, again, I urge those of you released today to maintain good behaviours.”
She later appealed to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and others working with the prisons authority to properly absorb and re-integrate those released into the society.
DCP Kayode Odeyemi, Officer-in-Charge of the prison, commended the CJ for exercising her powers in releasing the inmates adding that the effort has further decongested the prison as a good number of the inmates with minor offences has no business been detained in the prison.
Odeyemi said: “My Lord, today the criminal justice system of Lagos State has taken a leap in seeing that justice is done to all as a result of your visit to the prison as a good number of inmates with minor offences will be let off the hook”.
He thereafter appealed to the state Judiciary and the executive to assist prison authority with trucks and buses to ease the challenge of conveying inmates to court for their trials.
Also, Deputy Controller of Prisons, Babatunde Fashola commended the Lagos administration for approving the fortification of the prisons before leaving office.
According to records, 2452 inmates are currently in the prison built to accommodate 1,700 inmates. Another 2349 are awaiting trial while 92 are convicted, 32 detainees with 21 others being dubbed lodgers/acquittals.