By Lawrence Enyogahsu
With a goal to properly rehabilitate prisoners in Lagos State, a group, Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lagos State Ministry of Justice.
According to the Executive Director of the group, Benson Ngoziwu Agwu, who stated this yesterday at a Media/Dinner held in Ikeja, the agreement will allow the group to unveil a pilot programme of a new correction system, Restorative Justice.
Explaining the aim of the new system, Benson said that the aim was not to allow prisoners go free but to expose them to the level of hurts they cause the victims and the society.
“The problems of overcrowding and inhuman condition in our prison will lesson. And the issues of long awaiting trial will be erased. We believe these problems can be addressed by a re-evaluation and re-examination of our criminal justice system, in lieu to that, PFN has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to do a-five year pilot programme of restorative justice.
“Restorative justice implies that crime will not just be seen as an offence against the state. It will be seen as an infraction of personal right and liberty. In other words crime is committing harm against somebody, so the remedy is to try and heal the hurt, reconcile the relationship. In normal criminal case, you will see, the state versus Ojo but in restorative justice the parties are tripartite; the offender, the victim and the society.
“This is consistence with our formal African justice. It is still practice in some community. For us it is a major plan to decongest the prisons, healing the hurt and make the offender take responsibility for the things he has done. Once they take responsibility, the chances are that they will never go back to the crime then the victim will be happy that justice has been done,” he stated.
Also present at the Dinner was the president of the internal body, Prison Fellowship International (PFI) Frank Lofaro, who mentioned some of his concerns to Saturday Sun. He said that some of the hiccups the programme might have are; impatience and accessibility.
“There need to be a long period of time for restorative justice to kick in. as the government assigned the memorandum they will want to see result in two or three months but that restorative justice take about a year or 18 months for results to show. Another reason is that they need to give PFN a valuable access to the prison, so that they can have more contact with the inmates,” he stated.