Lagos CJ grants amnesty to 80 underage inmates
50 children still in Badagry Prisons
The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, yesterday granted amnesty to 80 underage inmates of the Badagry Prisons.The minors, whose ages range from 12 to 17, were said to have been arrested and charged with offences of breach of public peace and “having no means of livelihood.”
Justice Atilade, who visited the prison yesterday noted that the amnesty granted the underage inmates was in tandem with the resolution of the judiciary to protect the child rights and to also decongest prisons nationwide.
Only 28 names out of the 80 minors released were sent to the Lagos State Prisons Decongestion Committee headed by Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, for a review of their cases.
But a visit to the prison showed that 90 per cent of the inmates in the prisons were actually underage and the Chief Judge had to painstakingly review more cases together with her team.
While setting the inmates free, the Chief Judge urged them to be of good behaviour and to “go and sin no more. I pronounce, pursuant to the provisions of Section 1(1) of the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) Act, 2007 as well as Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, you are all hereby released from custody.”
The children, who looked malnourished and clad in blue and green prison uniform, were immediately handed over to the Ministry of Youths and Social Development. At least, 50 children were still in the facility.
Mr. Oye Famuwagun, the Deputy Controller of Prisons, in his address, highlighted the challenges facing the prison. “Badagry Prison lacks potable water for daily use and domestic needs, vehicles conveying inmates to court develop problems, all existing vehicles are old and are always malfunctioning. The issue of quick dispensation of justice for the awaiting trial inmates poses a lot of problems and has made the prison to be over populated,” he said.
Justice Yetunde Idowu, head of the Family Court of the Lagos State Judiciary, decried the incarceration of children in the adult prison. “The Judiciary and the government of Lagos State has zero tolerance for child abuse and we are saying no to children in prison whether under conviction, trial or otherwise.
“I am pained to be where we are looking at these children, if a child under 18 years is brought here, please alert the High Court, Office of the Public Defender (OPD), Ministry of Youths and Social Development and other agencies. Anytime a child commits an offence, we want to reform and rehabilitate them, there are correctional facilities available. Keeping a child in prison traumatises him or her, we don’t want children in our prisons, no child should be kept in prison for even an hour,” Idowu said.