Mr Emma Nwakeze, Controller of Prisons in Anambra, on Monday in Awka called on lawyers to help in prison decongestion by engaging in pro-bono advocacies for inmates.
Nwakeze made the call during a working visit to the Anambra office of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) ahead of the jail delivery exercise in the four prisons in the state due to commence on Dec. 5.
The controller said the 1,727 inmates in the prisons in Anambra had overshot their carrying capacities by not less than 30 per cent.
According to the prisons boss, most of the inmates were awaiting trial without access to judicial services.
Nwakeze said he had reached out to some branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in the state to take up some of the cases not just for the benefit of the inmates but as a requirement for the progression in the law profession.
The prison boss, who is also a lawyer, said he had secured the approval of the Chief Judge of Anambra to conduct jail delivery in the four prisons under the command.
According to him, “the jail delivery sessions would hold in Onitsha on Dec. 5, Aguata on Dec 7, Nnewi on Dec. 12 and Awka on Dec. 14.
“Since I resumed in Awka, the issue of prisons decongestion has been primary to me.
“I have been meeting with the relevant stakeholders including the state governor on prerogative of mercy and the Chief Judge on jail delivery.
“I have also met with some branches of NBA on the need for lawyers to take up pro bono cases, some of these inmates are on awaiting trial and they do not have access to legal services.
“I also discuss with them as colleagues, pro bono matters are requirement for climbing up the legal profession ladder; by the time about 300 lawyers agree to do it, you can imagine what will happen to our prison population,’’ he said.
The prison controller commended NAN for its salutary role in maintaining objectivity and national interest in its content.
Nwakeze said he was at NAN to solicit the Agency’s cooperation in disseminating information on prisons service not as a punitive campaign but a reformation ground for deviants.
“NAN is a great Agency; I know any information passed through NAN will reach not just Nigerians but the international community because it is a veritable source for the industry.
“Generally, the role of the media is ombudsman in nature in the effort to check and control social behaviour, I urge the cooperation of all to make our prisons better,’’ he said.
In his response, Mr Francis Onyeukwu, Anambra State Correspondent of NAN, commended the controller for his readiness to work with the media.
Onyeukwu, said the Federal Government set up the Agency to promote national unity through quality information dissemination and assured that NAN would support the Nigeria Prisons Service to achieve its mandate.