Yemisi Ajayi, Ibadan
In continuation of a two day prison visitation to ensure speedy dispensation of justice, the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, Friday pardoned another 40 inmates of the Medium Security Prison, Abolongo, Oyo town.
The released inmates were arrived at from a list of about 106 inmates recommended for consideration by the Prison’s authorities.
Recall that the Oyo CJ had on Thursday, initially released 84 inmates from the Agodi Prison, Ibadan, the capital city.
In all, 124 inmates were released at the end of the two day exercise led by the Oyo CJ.
Upon mention of the case of the recommended inmates, the facts of each case was presented with the CJ seeking the counsel of other stakeholders present before taking decision on any inmate.
The session which lasted for almost six hours inside the Abolongo Prisons was witness by top judicial officers, prison officials, magistrates, officials of the directorate of public prosecution, the state attorney general, lawyers, prosecutors, police and officials of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Most of the released inmates were shown mercy after been found remorseful for the offences levelled against them.
Justice Abimbola said the released inmates were set free on the ground that some of them were found to have stayed too long in custody in view of their offences, some others were released on health grounds while some others regained their freedom on sympathetic ground.
Non of the released inmate was of the female gender.
The release according to the CJ was in exercise of his powers to visit the prison to see how proceedings and trial of inmates have been going and also help to decongest the prison.
In a brief remarks before commencing the session, Justice Abimbola noted that the exercise is not to release very hardened criminals into the society but to ensure that justice is done to all.
The CJ said: “We are here as judicial officials to perform our statutory duty. It is axiomatic to say that the prison is congested and that there is need to do more to make sure justice is done fairly to all parties concerned.
“Justice is not only for those on trial but also for the victims and the society, that is why we must always be careful in releasing inmates.
“We considered only 106 cases who have committed bailable offences at the magistrate courts. All cases pending in the High Court are going to be given accelerated hearing while those on capital trials that are supposed to have been charged but still held back as a result of whatever challenges were also looked into.
“The exercise is not to releases very hardened criminals to the society but to ensure that justice is done to all the parties concerned. The exercise of prison visit and power to release is not a power capriciously exercised but intended on three grounds that:
“Any inmate that is found to be unduly staying longer in prison after serving his terms. There are some that the circumstances of their arrest needs to be address and given freedom and there are some persons whose circumstances deserve further attention such as health and such other.”
While promising that the exercise will be periodic, the CJ lamented the situation where the Abolongo prison housed the highest number of inmates with capital offences.
Speaking earlier in his welcome remarks, the Controller of Prison, Oyo state command, Mr. Kasali Yusuf appreciated the CJ for finding out time to visit the Agodi Prison saying the prison had been waiting all along for the visit.
He said that the prison, just like the Agodi facility had been having challenges with the utilities as a result of overpopulation of the inmates.
While noting that the Abolongo Prison, Oyo had 429 inmates, He said no fewer that 353 of the inmates are presently awaiting trials while only 76 have been convicted of various offences.
Yusuf while commending the CJ for the initial release of inmates at the Agodi prisons, Ibadan a day earlier noted that the situation in which a high percentage of inmates are those awaiting trials is not good for the judicial system.
Addressing the released inmates on behalf of the CJ, Justice Iyabo Yerima enjoined the beneficiary of the freedom to be of good conduct and not commit any crime that would bring them back to the prisons, pointing out that such would mean taking the mercy and favour showed on them by the CJ for granted.
She encouraged the released inmate to ensure they find good means of livelihood and ensure they contribute positively to the progress of the society.