The Anambra State House of Assembly has expressed concern over the congestion in Onitsha, Awka and Ekwulobia correctional centres due to lack of accelerated hearing of cases involving inmates awaiting trial.
The lamentation is contained in a motion moved under Matters of Urgent Public Importance, by Fredrick Ezenwa, representing Onitsha South Constituency I, at plenary.
Ezenwa said there was a large population of Anambra indigenes languishing in the correctional centres in the state.
He said that the Onitsha Correctional Centre, which was built to accommodate 600 inmates, is holding a total of 1,017 inmates as at July 9, with a total number of 909 inmates awaiting trial.
According to him, the inmates awaiting trial are presumed innocent until they are found guilty of the offences they were charged with.
“It is disheartening to note that some of the inmates awaiting trial have spent years in the facility without being tried.
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“The future of the inmates awaiting trial are being toyed with. The overcrowded nature of the facilities keep the inmates vulnerable to contagious diseases.
“If accelerated hearing is effectively organised for the inmates, the facilities will be grossly decongested. The innocent shall be set free while the guilty shall be convicted,” he said.
In his views, Mr Douglas Egbuna, representing Onitsha North Constituency I, said it was constitutionally wrong to keep an accused in prison without hearing his/her case.
Egbuna suggested the appointment of more police officers to take over the investigation of criminal matters in the state.
Contributing, Jude Ngobili, representing Ihiala Constituency I, said more legal officers should be appointed in the office of the Attorney General to take care of cases, vet files and write legal opinions.
“The Governor should also appoint more court judges, build more court halls to accelerate hearing of cases and help decongest our correctional centres,” he said.
The Speaker of the House, Mr Somtochukwu Udeze, urged the Attorney General to rise up to the occasion and reform the justice system of the state.
He also urged the Attorney General to employ more lawyers to be in the office of the directorate of public prosecution.
“The Assembly urged Gov. Chukwuma Soludo to direct the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state to decongest Onitsha, Awka, and Ekwulobia correctional centres through accelerated hearing of cases,” he said.
The house adjourned until August 1, for plenary.