No more prison sentences for petty crimes, Lagos CJ declares

Opeyemi Oke, the chief judge of Lagos, says petty offenders will no longer get prison sentences effective from June 3.

Speaking on Tuesday at the presentation of the two practice directions, the ACJL Practice Direction and Restorative Justice Practice Direction, Oke said there would, henceforth, be a speedy resolution of criminal cases to ensure an effective justice system.

“Today in Nigeria we have seen countless cases where defendants are arrested for minor offenses such as burglary and wandering; they are locked up in our prisons for the flimsiest reasons to join the teeming population awaiting trial inmates,” she said.

“In fact, the awaiting trial inmates account for more than 75 percent of the inmates in our prisons today.

“They are in our prisons with hardened criminals and by the time they come out they have been initiated into a life of crime and are ready to spread terror, death, and destruction in their post-prison escapades.”

The CJ said petty offenders will be diverted to the Practice Directions centres where non-custodial sentences, including fines, restitution orders, community service orders would be used as long as they are willing to take responsibility for their actions.

“Lagos State has been at the vanguard in terms of criminal justice reform when it passed the ACJL in 2007, amended it in 2011. Other states followed suit, adopted and improved upon it,” she said.

“Now, Lagos State is going further with these new practice directions to realise the goal of expedited trials, improvement in the case disposal rates and hopefully, this will culminate in the decongestion of our prisons.”

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