Opeyemi Oke, the chief judge of Lagos State has banned jail sentence for petty offenders, taking effect from June 3, 2019.
Naija News notes that this decision is not unconnected to a call by the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, for the decongestion of prisons.
The Chief judge was speaking at the presentation of the two practice directions, the ACJL Practice Direction and Restorative Justice Practice Direction, Oke said there would, henceforth, be a speedy resolution of criminal cases to ensure an effective justice system.
The Cable quoted Oke as saying that Nigeria has seen countless cases where defendants are arrested for minor offenses such as burglary and wandering, adding that ‘..they are locked up in our prisons for the flimsiest reasons to join the teeming population awaiting trial inmates.”
“In fact, the awaiting trial inmates account for more than 75 percent of the inmates in our prisons today.
“They are in our prisons with hardened criminals and by the time they come out they have been initiated into a life of crime and are ready to spread terror, death, and destruction in their post-prison escapades,” she said.
The CJ said petty offenders will be diverted to the Practice Directions centres where non-custodial sentences, including fines, restitution orders, community service orders would be used as long as they are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
“Lagos State has been at the vanguard in terms of criminal justice reform when it passed the ACJL in 2007, amended it in 2011. Other states followed suit, adopted and improved upon it,” she said.
“Now, Lagos State is going further with these new practice directions to realise the goal of expedited trials, improvement in the case disposal rates and hopefully, this will culminate in the decongestion of our prisons.”