by Rachel Ogbu
The Lagos State Government has denied putting 162 children in prison for environmental offences.
On Thursday the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, said its special court had imprisoned adults and they were only 115 in the category of convicts referred to in the reports.
“We have concluded an investigation into the matter. In the first place, the number of defendants that were arraigned on the said day was 115 and not 162 as reported,” Ipaye said.
“As you may be aware, it is customary for the prosecutor to indicate the name, the age, the gender and address of the defendants on the charge sheets.
“None of the defendants had his or her age stated as being below 18.”
The Punch reports:
The PUNCH had in its report observed that the convicts whose ages were not confirmed, were imprisoned for up to 390 days for minor environmental offences without having legal representations and adequate time to prepare for their defence.
The Chief Judge of the state, Justice Ayotunde Philips, also reportedly warned the magistrate, Mrs. Jadesola Adeyemi, who sentenced the convicts for not imposing community service instead of sending them to jail.
Ipaye said on Thursday that the magistrate and the court registrar took conscious efforts to ascertain that the convicts were not juveniles.
Ipaye assured the people that the government would continue to ensure that no underage offenders were incarcerated in adult prisons in the state.
He added that his ministry had intensified its efforts on prison decongestion through regular prison visitations and speedy review of case files of inmates awaiting trial.
Ipaye said, “On June 13, we visited the Kirikiri Female, Medium and Maximum Prisons.
“In the Female Prison, we discovered that out of the 226 inmates, 171 were ‘awaiting trial’, with only 54 inmates already convicted.
“At the Maximum Prison, we discovered 121 inmates who were awaiting trial for various offences.
“It is important to note that the great majority of these inmates have no file or report awaiting legal advice in the Ministry of Justice.”
On the issue of death penalty, Ipaye explained that President Goodluck Jonathan did not give any directive to state governors on the signing of warrants of prisoners on death row.
He said, “The President merely gave an advice. Our criminal law provides for the death penalty.
“The Constitution requires every governor to implement all laws of the state but the governors are hesitating for two major reasons.
“The convicts’ right to appeal and the prerogative of mercy granted them by the constitution.”