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Prison decongestion a mirage in the face of “obnoxious” conditions – Lawyer Ugoamadi

by Achudu Gabriel, Kaduna

A legal practitioner, Barrister Obiyo Ugoamadi, has said the ongoing prison decongestion of prisons drive would be a mirage, if the obnoxious conditions set by authorities of Kaduna correctional centre for lawyers to access to clients’ inmates are allowed to stand. 

Barr. Ugoamadi, who made the assertion in a letter of petition he addressed to Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Kaduna on the new conditions set for accessing client inmates in Kaduna Convict Prison by lawyers, described the action as “obnoxious.”

The authorities of Kaduna Correctional Centre had on 11th November, 2020, given eight conditions that must be met as requirements for lawyers seeking for interviews with clients’ inmates in its centre.

An Assistant Superintendent Controller (ASC) of Kaduna Correctional Centre, Abubakar M. Zain, who signed the letter of notice, stated that, henceforth, a valid sealed and signed written application by legal practitioners shall be addressed to Deputy Controller, Medium Security Custodial of Kaduna Centre, for visitation.

The notice stated that applications shall be forwarded at least 24 hours before visitation, and shall only be granted in respect of one case, regardless of the number of inmates answering nandrolone phenylpropionate overview the case.

It also stated that a lawyer wishing to interview more than one client shall apply separately for each, except case mates, adding that the above requirements must be complied with, and Covid-19 observed, for successful interview.

But reacting to the notice in a protest letter addressed to the Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Kaduna, a legal practitioner, Barr. Obiyo E. Ugoamadi, of O E Ugoamadi and Co. (Okpuala Chambers) Kaduna, described the conditions as obnoxious.

In the petition letter, dated 25th November, 2020, Barr. Ugoamadi stated that the implications of the condition are that lawyers would wait for about three days or more before attended to, saying it’s expensive and discouraging for outside jurisdiction lawyers from Kano, Jos, and even Lagos states.

According to him, condition number 5 is a display of crass ignorant administration of justice, wondering what happens, if a co-defendant made a serious allegation against the others. “That is against the relevant provision of Evidence Act, Cap, E. 14.”

Barr Ugoamadi noted that, “The officer, who posted the notice, has never observed or conducted a criminal trial from arrangements to judgment. The centre is abolishing pre-trial briefing, as counsel could no longer dash to centre to brief inmates of their case the next day.

While he described the action as insult and demeaning to lawyers visiting the centre, Ugoamadi added that the notice is “an empty ego trip” by the officers of the centre.

Barr. Ugoamadi noted that the correctional centre officers do not state what it stands to lose, especially in condition number 6, even as he drew the attention of the relevant authorities to the conditions on whether the conditions are obtained nationwide or internationally. 

The lawyer also described the process and hurdles as disparaging and demeaning to lawyers, who intend to render services to their clients’ inmates at the center.

He state that “Out of the eight conditions, numbers 4 to 6 are subtle denial of lawyers’ access to the centre and denial of inmates’ rights to access their counsel as provided by Section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

The petitioner lamented that three barriers were great impediment to smooth administration of justice, saying authorities of Kaduna Prisons should come out openly and tell Nigeria that lawyers should stop coming to the centre; that any unfortunate Nigerian taken to the centre should forget about he’s or her rights to counsel. 

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