By / 11th March, 2015 / projects / Off

SUMMARY

Most of the victims of prolonged pre-trial detention in Nigeria do not have legal representation because they cannot afford a lawyer and as such have no access to justice. Hence, they languish in prisons for years, some for alleged offences they neither committed nor knew nothing about and many for offences they would have served a shorter time than they have spent in prison if they had been convicted.

BACKGROUND

Prolonged pre-trial detention, outdated penal and criminal codes, a slow judicial process, corruption and arbitrary arrests and detention of citizens by the police are some of the factors blamed for the phenomenon. Also, many detainees cannot afford a lawyer.
Many prisons are locking up three times their designated capacities, forcing inmates to take turns to sleep. Also, lack of good nutrition and health care are common. Some data may better illustrate the situation.

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In 2011, a prison warden in Keffi Prison in Nasarawa State, North-Central Nigeria, introduced me to a man who had been detained for six years without trial because he could not afford a lawyer and the state failed to provide him with one, which is quite common. At the end of these years, he was acquitted on his first appearance in court, without any compensation following an intervention by an NGO. He was lucky! Thousands of detainees have awaited trial for more than 10 years for alleged offences they would have served a short term if they had been convicted. But many, like him, are innocent of these alleged offences.

 

Overcrowding in Nigerian prisons, a result of excessive pre-trial detention, is as old as the prison system, and the Federal Government is aware of this reality. Between 2006 and 2012, private law firms were solicited at a huge price to trim down the population. Over $53 million (8 billion naira) was spent in payments and verifications of the cases. While the program generated huge debate, it averted a major crisis in prison population and its attendant consequences because prison population dropped from 127,051 in 2006 to 50,100 in 2012. But the rate of pre-trial detention remains high and pre-trial detainees remain one of the most vulnerable groups that have little or no protection of the law and whose rights and dignity are systematically flouted and violated with impunity.

Also, victims of pre-trial detention are often victims of torture and the most cruellest, inhumane and degrading treatment, particularly from the time of arrest, transportation to police stations and detention in the police cells, as police officers usually employ different types of brutal corporal punishments in order to illicit confessions. Unfortunately, some of these false confessions have been used as evidence in court for convictions, putting innocent people behind bars. Besides, pre-trial detainees are denied their right to fair and speedy trial and access to justice as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and guaranteed by many international and regional instrumentsy international and regional instruments Nigeria is a party to.

Sadly, there has been a regress on the progress that had been made in achieving criminal justice and prisons reforms and protecting the rights of pre-trial detainees and prisoners due to what seems to be a “change of focus” to new areas like governance, environment and freedom of expression by some NGOS who had previously worked on prisoners rights, welfare and prison reforms. Even with the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which has been described by many justice reform and human rights advocates as the most progressive criminal law in Nigeria, nothing much has changed. The prison population as well as the awaiting trial population continue to rise due largely to the poor implementation of some parts, and zero implementation of other parts of the Act, such as Part 44, which allows for alternative forms of incarceration, such as community service, parole, suspended sentence, probation, etc. Also, many recommendations for reforms in the Police, the Judiciary and the Prison Service which, if implemented, would have impacted hugely on the rights and welfare of pre-trial detainees and prisoners have not been implemented and there is too little pressure by civil society on government to make these happen.

While good governance and freedom of expression are important elements of every democracy, the protection of human rights and dignity of all persons are equally important and are integral elements of any democratic setting. In fact, it can be argued that there is no democracy and good governance without human rights and rule of law. And Nigeria cannot achieve true democracy if the rights of her citizens, particularly the poor and most vulnerable – detainees and prisoners – are not protected and defended.

Our goal for providing legal aid was not to provide shelter for criminals, but to give each suspect, especially those who are too poor to afford a lawyer, an opportunity to have a lawyer in order to get a fair and just hearing  in accordance with the demands of justice.

Our achievements

Legal representation to pre-trial detainees

The number of cases concluded as shown below, demonstrate our achievements and competence in the provision of legal aid.

  1. C.O.P. v ABDULMALIK TIJANI

KADO AREA COURT

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – THEFT

 On the 7th of December, 2016 this matter was struck out following the application of CURE-Nigeria’s counsel since there is lack of interest on the side of the prosecution and on that ground the accused was discharged.

Appearances – 3

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  1. C.O.P v ABDURAHAMAN BAH – CR/ 248 / 17

SMC 1, MARARABA

COUNSEL – BARR.NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – THEFT

 This case of theft came up today 31/07/2017 for sentencing or report on the settlement out of court, the nominal complainant being a cousin to the accused person decided to let go and the court on that ground discharged the accused person.

Appearances – 1

 

  1. C.O.P v AGABA OWEZI CR/111/2017

GRADE 1 AREA COURT KUBWA

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – SECTION 247 PCL

The matter came up for hearing on the 8/8/17 as the prosecutor was not able to provide his witnesses after series of adjournments, the court discharged the accused for lack of diligent prosecution

Appearances – 6

  1. C.O.P v AKINYEMI AMUDA CR/01/16

CMC KUBWA

COUNSEL – BARR.NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – SECTION 27 ROAD TRAFFIC ACT

 This case came up on 22nd May, 2017 for definite hearing. The accused person and his counsel were in court. The prosecutor was absent and he did not send any correspondence explaining his absence, he was not in court on the last adjourned date also. The defense counsel applied for the case to be struck out and the accused discharged. The court struck out the case and discharged the accused person.

Appearances – 2

  1. C.O.P v ARO CHIMEZIE AND MR. OBINNA MBAH CR/1449/15

UAC GUDU

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI, BARR. BILKISU IRAMA

OFFENCE – CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY, ATTEMPT TO COMMIT ROBBERY

This case came up on 24th October, 2016 for hearing. The prosecutor wasn’t in court. The defense counsel on that ground applied that the matter be struck out for lack of diligent prosecution. His application was granted and the accused were discharged.

Appearances – 4

  1. C.O.P v AUSTIN OKHIA, HEBRON BULUS, CHIBUZOR OSUNWA CR/70/13

HC 12, APO

COUNSEL- BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – CONSPIRACY, ARMED ROBBERY

 This case on Conspiracy and Armed Robbery at Court 12, Apo came up on 18th January, 2017 for judgment. All the parties and their counsels were in court except the prosecutor who was absent. The court delivered judgment and discharged and acquitted all the accused persons.

Appearances – 15

  1. C.O.P v BENEDITH AGHA

AREA COURT KADO

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE –

On the 28th of August, 2016, this matter was struck out for lack of diligent prosecution by Kado Area Court.

Appearances – 3

  1. C.O.P v DAVID OGAH

SMC KARU

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – BREACH OF TRUST, CHEATING

 The accused Mr.David Ogah had his FIR (First Information Report) withdrawn on 24th January, 2017.This case came up for hearing on report of settlement. The prosecutor was absent but counsel to the accused was present. The accused was absent but his surety was present and the nominal complainant informed the court that they have settled the case out of court. Court terminated the FIR [First Information Report] and discharged the accused.

Appearances- 8

 C.O.P v FRIDAY WILLIAMS AND 2 OTHERS

COURT: UAC GUDU

COUNSEL – BARR. NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – CONSPIRACY, ROBBERY

 On 6th February, 2017, this case came up for ruling on application for a discharge made by Ndubusi Kalu Esq on the 9th January, 2017 for the discharge of the accused person. Court granted the application today and discharged the accused persons.

The defense counsel has on several occasions made application for the discharge of the accused person after several adjournments without hearing and without the appearance of the prosecutor. It does not speak well of our justice system when an accused is kept in prison for a long time without trial at the instance of the prosecutor.

Appearances – 6

  1. C.O.P v HAFIZ ABDUSALAM CR/01 /17

CMC KUJE

COUNSEL – BAR.NDUBUISI

OFFENCE – SECTION 167 PC

 This case came up on 14th March, 2017 for hearing at Chief Magistrate Court, Kuchikau, Kuje. The prosecutor applied to withdraw the First Information Report [FIR] because the main suspect whom the defendant sureteed at the police station has been apprehended. The FIR was struck out and the accused discharged.

Appearances – 6

See the complete list Here

See the list of on-going cases Here

 In spite of these achievements, a lot more need to be done in the provision of legal aid to those who cannot afford the services of a lawyer as there are thousands of such detainees in many of our prisons around the country. CURE-Nigeria is willing and ready to continue with this effort in other states but there is the question of financing the lawyers who are handling these cases on our behalf. Funding therefore is a major constraint in our bid to expand the project and reach more detainees who may not even deserve to be there. Injustice to one is injustice to all, keeping people in prison for long without trial is an injustice. Join us to give freedom to thousands who need it in order to allow human rights reign in our society.  

Below are some of the pictures of our lawyers with released detaineesBarr. Kalu with ex-inmatesBarrs. Kalu & Biliksu with ex-inmatesIMG_20161024_135240(1)IMG_20170118_114013Ten released from Keffi20150420_125434ex-inmate with barr.pretrial25505ef98427d8.jpg