EKSG Moves To Decongest Prison... As Fapohunda Meets With Officers
Abasi Femi Oguntayo
Ekiti State Government has said it would exploit the options of Plea Bargain and Prerogative of Mercy as part of the efforts to decongest the Ado Ekiti prisons.
The State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Olawale Fapohunda Esq. who made this known at a meeting with the officials of the Ado Ekiti Prisons led by the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, Ekiti State Command, Olusola Olatunde, stressed the need to reduce the number of inmates in the 600 capacity Prison that already had almost 500 inmates.
According to the release made available to pressmen in Ado-Ekiti by the ministry's press officer Seun Ibidunmoye, Fapohunda explained that while neither of the options is automatic, the State could agree to guilty pleas to lesser offenses for awaiting trial inmates that have abundant evidence against them for serious offenses but have severe health issues such as tuberculosis, anal bleeding and heart related diseases.
Reiterating the commitment of the Fayemi led administration to the safety of lives and property including prison inmates in the State, the commissioner stressed that government was not under any compulsion to agree to any plea bargain, adding that each case would be considered on merit in the quest to reduce the population of awaiting trial inmates in the prison.
Noting that the expert opinions of Prison Management would play a major role in the recommendation for the Governor's Prerogative of Mercy since they knew the inmates well and should be able to decipher the probability of inmates to stay out of trouble and out of prison if released, the Attorney General said that inmates qualification for recommendation depends primarily on good behaviour.
In his remarks, the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, Ekiti State Command, Olusola Olatunde called for additional collaboration between the Prison authority and the Ministry of Justice, adding that fora should be organized to properly educate the inmates.
Olatunde who highlighted the challenges facing the Ado Ekiti Prisons to include lack of logistics and excessive bills from government hospitals for inmates appealed for assistance to surmount the problems.
On the plea bargain requested by the government, the deputy controller was of the opinion that, many of the convicts would not talk until they see their lawyers, which to him was a challenge because it was just an act of ignorance of the fact that the government wanted to help them.
He however pleaded for an inclusion of their lawyers to educate their clients and make them understand what the opportunity was all about because according to him, many of the convicts when approached would think the government wanted to set a trap for them.
The ministry of Justice director of public prosecution, Adeniyi Familoni who was also present at the meeting, reacting to the deputy controller's opinion emphasized on the need to talk to the convicts' themselves because according to him, "we have also realised that these lawyers, simply because of what they are out to get won't advise their clients to take this offer. So there is a need to talk to the clients themselves too, just to make them know what is in the coffer for them.
"So I think the first point of call is the suspects themselves and that is just to educate them that under the new laws, you have these opportunities. If they now say, go and talk to my lawyer, then we will now extend this to the lawyers.
" So we still need to come and talk to them, though we as prosecutors cannot come and talk to them, because they can never trust us but people from citizens' rights, OPD or legal aid can come and talk to them and let them know that these provisions are for their benefits.
"They need to be told that they were caught, there are strong evidences against them, and some of them even confessed to the police and if the government is giving them a soft landing, they should be wise enough to embrace it".
The Attorney General however demanded for a quick release of list of convicts who could benefit from the government's prerogative of mercy as he was going to meet with the committee set up by the governor to look into the issue as soon as they have a list of potential beneficiaries they can work on.
Also present at the meeting were officers of the Ado-Ekiti Prison who escorted the deputy controller to the Ministry of Justice.