Chief Judge of Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro, has said that poor funding was responsible for prison congestion, slow dispensation of justice and general inefficiency in Nigeria prison system.
As a way out, Justice Umukoro, who spoke during a visit to Ogwashi-Uku Prison in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state, advocated urgent reforms in the prison system.
Ogwashi-Uku Prison which was originally built to accommodate 160 inmates, had a population of 901 inmates as at November 15, 2017, according to the deputy comptroller, Frank Okonkwo.
Okonkwo said out of the 901 inmates, 738 are awaiting trial, just as 199 defendants were still in custody because of the absence of legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecution, emphasising that it has hampered speedy reproduction of defendants in courts.
Worried by the alarming statistics, Justice Umukoro released 25 inmates out of 776 cases reviewed at the prison facility.
The Chief Judge lamented the obvious unbearable condition of Prisons, noting that they have been stretched beyond their respective capacities, and that something urgent must be done to arrest the ugly trend.
While sympathising with prison officers who are not provided with vehicles to reproduce inmates in courts to face trial, Justice Umukoro stressed that the prevailing anomaly has compounded the already existing problem of overcrowding.
He reiterated the imperativeness for a radical reform, especially the amendment of Part 1, Item 48 of the Second Schedule of the Construction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, which placed prison in the Exclusive Legislative List, noting that the prison institution originally meant for reform, was rapidly sliding into a place of deform as criminals are more hardened when they got out.
While presenting the statistics, the deputy comptroller, Frank Okonkwo, had told the Chief Judge that 26 inmates are with critical health challenges including HIV, waist diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and blindness, even as he appealed to the State Government through the Chief Judge and well meaning individuals to provide vehicles to ensure more efficient service delivery.