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NGO urges FG to declare state of emergency on criminal justice system

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By Emmanuel Acha
A human rights group, Avocats Sans Frontieres France has called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The Country Director of the group, known as ‘Lawyers Without Borders France), Mrs Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu made the call in a statement on Monday in Enugu.

Uzoma-Iwuchukwu said that the call became necessary following the congestion of custodial centres across the country.

The country director described the call from some quarters to enforce the death sentence on convicts as a means of decongesting the custodial centres as brutish, inhuman and violation of the Rights to Life.

“In our view, a more constructive approach would be a declaration of a state of emergency in Nigeria’s criminal justice system with initiatives rolled out to tackle the slow pace of justice delivery in Nigeria.

“This should be done with a view to reducing the awaiting trial population, many of whom have spent eight years or more awaiting trial,” she said.

She said that the death penalty was inhuman, obsolete and did not serve as a deterrent.

“It is used disproportionately against the poor. It is a violation of the Right to Life and execution is irreversible even where fresh evidence surfaces to exonerate the convicted,” she said.

The country director appealed to the Federal Government to declare an official moratorium on execution while it tackled the huge problem created by the awaiting trial population.

“It is worrisome to learn that out of the total prison population of 68,747 inmates, only 17,755 inmates are the actual convicts with 50,992 inmates representing about 74 per cent on awaiting trial.

“The statistics clearly shows that the current congestion in Nigerian custodial centres is as a result of the disturbing high number of awaiting trial inmates and not the minority population on death row.

“ We remain committed to working with national partners to address the challenge of prison congestion in Nigeria,” Uzoma-Iwuchukwu said.

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