The Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshall Umukoro has granted bail to six inmates including an 80-year old woman, Epinigho Jarikre, at the Warri Custodial Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service.
Justice Umukoro who was on a working visit to the centre, also pardoned 149 inmates on awaiting trial list.
Madam Jarikre and two others, Margaret Ikpesa (50) and Cecilia Akpomedaye (69), were charged for forceful entry under section 4(4) b of the Delta State Public and Private Properties Protection Law, 2018 ( a.k.a. DEVE) which attracts death penalty.
Their counsel, Mr. Ovuayero Esi said his clients were victims of oppression by a few elites in the community who were bent on seizing their land, alleging that the charge disclose mischief and oppression.
Granting the bail, Justice Umukoro queried the rationale behind arraigning women in their 60s under a law ordinarily targeted at youths who extort money from land developers whereas there was a criminal code that dealt with such offence that stipulates six months imprisonment if convicted.
The chief Judge seized the opportunity to attribute delay in the administration of justice, amongst other factors, to include large number of cases in cause lists, even as he advocated for the expansion of the various custodial centres.
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Reviewing the warrants of 786 awaiting trial inmates, Umukoro who lamented that the number of inmates has tripled the number which it was originally constructed for in 1916, bemoaned federal government’s inability to expand its facilities to commensurate with the astronomical increase of inmates.
He also listed other factors leading to congestion of custodial centres to include paucity of vehicles to reproduce inmates to court; delay in sitting by courts; frivolous interlocutory applications by lawyers; decay of societal mores, law and other; delay in rendering legal opinion by the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Ministry of Justice; transfers of investigation police officers (IPOs); and relocation of witnesses.
The Chief Judge admonished inmates between 17 to 18 years old in Warri custodial centre to refrain from associating with bad company.
He stated that some of them might be innocent of the offence allegedly committed, but inadvertently found themselves in their present predicament because of the bad friends they keep.
The Deputy Controller of Corrections, Warri Custodial Centre, Solomon Airiohuodion appealed to the Chief Judge to use his good offices to influence the state government to assist in decongesting the condemned convicts section, stressing that it was against the rules and regulations of the Correctional Service to mix condemned convict inmates with other categories of inmates.