The Legend Golden Care Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) has called on the federal government to speed up court processes so that cases move faster to help inmates, especially those awaiting trial.
The foundation’s executive director, Ms. Kanayo Metuh, made the call during the presentation of gifts to inmates at the Suleja Custody Center on Thursday in Niger, as part of her “Beyond the Walls” initiative.
The Nigerian News Agency reports that there were 700 inmates at the Suleja Custody Center and among the donated items were slippers, toothpastes, toothbrushes, bath soaps, drinks, bread, among others.
Metuh advocated for deliberate legal action leading to expedited trials for the conclusion of investigations, trials and sentencing in all cases, especially for inmates awaiting trial.
He said that a person was considered innocent until proven guilty, as established in the Nigerian constitution.
He added that the situation was worse when people were imprisoned for five or seven years there for so long.
According to her, the unintended consequence is that people are probably serving prison terms for crimes they did not commit.
“And then at the end of the day, when they are found guilty, they could have exceeded the maximum terms allotted for the crimes they initially committed.
“I want to ask the government to speed up the judicial processes so that the cases move faster.
“And also eliminate the bottlenecks that exist in the system that will make it possible for someone who is awaiting trial to be locked up for five to seven years,” he said.
The Executive Director said that one of the many positive things that came out of her husband’s tribulations was an awareness of the challenges he faced.
Metuh noted that the experience of her husband, Olisa Metuh, former national publicity secretary for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), sparked the initiative “beyond the walls.”
He said it was mainly for people who were incarcerated.
He added that the foundation also provided free legal assistance to inmates who could not afford legal representation.
“We are here today to present some of the needs of the interns. We are here with few things and also to discover other things that we can do to make the stay of the interns worthwhile.
“We understand that when people commit crimes, there must be punitive measures, but the correctional service must not only punish people, there must be a form of rehabilitation.
“This means that at the end of the day, you don’t want people to leave here with the same mentality that brought them in,” he said.
He explained that the NGO embarked on the initiative to also support what the government was doing, and that even with the best of intentions, the government could not do everything.
“I want to call on individuals, corporate organizations and NGOs to rise to the occasion to help inmates.
“In the Western world, there are often collaborations between the government and the private sector,” he said.
Metuh also asked well-meaning people to help NCoS live up to the prisoners’ mindset and add value to their lives.
She also pleaded with Nigerians to stop stigmatizing people who had been incarcerated, adding that it was such a horrible experience to be incarcerated for years and still face stigmatization.
Also speaking, the Deputy Comptroller in charge of the Suleja Custody Center, Mr. Ali Ali, praised the foundation for the initiative and said it was laudable.
Ali said the NGO had been exceptional beyond the expectations of the service, and urged other NGOs and individuals to follow the suite and help inmates have the life they hoped for.
“We will continue to do our best and ensure that everything you brought for the prisoners is properly used and properly distributed,” he said.
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