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Custodial Centre decongestion: Ebonyi Govt establishes new unit

Ebonyi State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Ben Odoh has embarked on a quarterly visit to the Abakaliki custodial centre.

This is in a bid to ensure effective prosecution, access to justice, and address overcrowding at the centre.

During the visit, the Attorney General revealed several key initiatives aimed at improving the welfare of inmates and enhancing the justice system in the state.

Odoh announced the establishment of the office of Public Defender within the Ebonyi State Ministry of Justice.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Public Relations officer of the ministry, Chikodiri lgwe Eze.

He created the department to provide free legal representation to inmates who cannot afford to pay their lawyers, ensuring their right to a fair trial.

According to him, he mandated the management of the custodial centre to compile lists of inmates who do not have lawyers representing them in court.

He assured the inmates at the centre that if lawyers assigned to represent them in court failed to do so, such lawyers will be severely disciplined.

On tackling overcrowding, the Attorney General also addressed the issue at the Custodial Centre, which he said currently wayhouses 1,339 inmates against its capacity of 387.

He attributed the overcrowding at the centre to unqualified police prosecutors who mess up the process and end up dumping criminal defendants in the prison.

He lamented that some inmates have spent about 8 years at the custodial centre for offences that would have warranted one year imprisonment upon conviction.

In responding to this challenge, Benedict Nnagozie Oyoko, officer in-charge of Abakaliki Custodial Centre, emphasized that prolonged adjournments were also contributory factors.

In his efforts to decongest the Abakaliki custodial centre, the Commissioner has written to the State Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General of Police, requesting the withdrawal of all police prosecutors that have not been called to the Bar.

Additionally, he has secured the Ebonyi State Chief Justice’s approval to deny audience to such prosecutors.

On health, the Attorney General also expressed concern over the health of inmates, noting that 127 males and three females were suffering from serious illnesses, while three individuals were mentally ill.

He urged the Custodial Centre management to prioritize the health and well-being of all inmates and promised to partner with relevant organizations in improving the custodial centre for human habitation.

Custodial Centre decongestion: Ebonyi Govt establishes new unit

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