A legal practitioner, Mr Monday Ubani, has called for a total review of the criminal justice system in Nigeria, especially on ‘awaiting trial inmates’ in correctional facilities across country.
Ubani, former second Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), wants the Chief Justice of the Federation and the NBA to look into the issues of inmates suffering for the crimes they did not commit.
According to Ubani, many innocent inmates are languishing in correctional centres, especially in Lagos.
“Some were even arrested by the police without committing any offence; some were arrested on mistaken identities, while others were detained and given unnecessary stringent bail conditions that they cannot meet up with. Before now, a lawyer can perfect the bail condition of an accused, but today, the police will not be available to assist. This is improper and we must stop it.
“The chief justice of federation, NBA, rights groups and the media, should rise up to this challenge. We all should be worried about the criminal justice system in the country. My position is that we should cry out. Visit the correctional centres; ask questions and release those who are not supposed to be there. I want them to understand that there are people on ‘awaiting trial’ lists and have no case files, their cases can never come up in the court and they will remain in prisons indefinitely. I have released such five of such persons
“I have decided, in conjunction with a man of God, Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, of Celestial Church of Christ, Genesis Global Parish, to fight this battle of inmates being detained unnecessarily and with stringent bail conditions.
“What attracted me to the prophet is the stories I read about his spiritual and human efforts towards those who are in correctional custody in our correctional facility at Kirikiri, Apapa. The story out there are his efforts in winning more souls for Christ, donations of food and toiletries to the inmates, which to us, is the true exhibit of traits of true Christianity which is represented by love for God and humanity.
“Of utmost excitement to me personally and our law firm is the issue of facilitating the release of some of the inmates that have been in detention awaiting trials for good number of years. I am sure you are aware of the story of Azeez Ibrahim, who regained his freedom recently at the instance of the prophet. The man narrated how he wrongly served 10 years and six months at Kirikiri correctional centre for wrong identification.
“He regained freedom as a result of the intervention of Prophet Oladele. The number we gathered who have regained freedom so far through the effort of the prophet and his church has risen to about 82 inmates.
“We got interested in knowing this great apostle of God and we are interested in partnering with him to secure the lives of those that are being wasted in prison by our imperfect administration of criminal justice system. However, we got more than we bargained for. He told us the story of his sojourn to the correctional centre at Apapa. We demanded a copy of his judgment that pronounced his conviction and sentence.
“Sad at some of the events that led to his conviction. We are glad that the conviction is being challenged seriously by a very senior and competent lawyer based in Lagos. It is our conviction that justice shall be served at the appellate jurisdiction. There are clearly yawning gaps in the entire story leading to his trial and conviction. We are worried that the exonerating report of the Alagbon police authority that was the last to investigate the whole incidence was never taken into consideration at the trial court. As said earlier, these and many more shall be strengthened in due course.
“Concerning his conviction and sentence, Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe strongly disagrees and has appealed against his conviction, challenging the conclusion and position of the trial court, and he is bewildered on how a matter, which was earlier reported to the police for threat to life, metamorphosed all of a sudden into a case of stealing and obtaining money by false pretense, leading to his conviction and sentencing, a fundamental issue he has raised in his appeal.
“In turn, the law firm of Ubani and Co. has expressed its willingness to partner with Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, upon conclusion of terms and we are throwing these open to any meaningful Nigerian, individuals, or organisations regarding this noble cause or humanitarian activity of helping in getting justice to those who are languishing in various correctional centres across the country to come on board with us.
“We must endeavor to rescue our fellow brothers and sisters that are victims of our faulty system. Upon being emotionally touched by the stories and the various ordeals of these inmates, the prophet according to him started to care for the families of these inmates, by paying for their children’s school fees, providing them with feeding allowances, paying legal fees for those awaiting trials, an act of philanthropy that Prophet Ogundipe was famously known for before his unfortunate incarceration and this led him to reach out through his aides and representatives to the law firm of Ubani and Co. expressing his desire to team up with our law firm in order to give comprehensive legal representations to various inmates whose stories and ordeals are quite compelling both at the trial and at the appellate courts.
“Please note that this is in furtherance to Prophet Ogundipe’s intention of establishing his prison foundation, which is to be called Israel Oladele Prison Foundation, which, in part, will be working in collaboration with Onyekachi Ubani’s Foundation to assist the less-privileged who are denied justice through our skewed administration of criminal justice system. These two foundations with their mission and core value will focus on addressing social vices, counseling, youth empowerment and rendering of legal representation to indigents in need of legal services, especially those at the Correctional Centres across the Country awaiting trials that are never held.”