Fears of major outbreaks of epidemic loom in Police cells across Lagos State, following the stoppage of intakes of suspects from the police by the Nigerian Prisons Service, NPS.
Already, courts have advised police to use Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, to settle disputes for this development. Consequently, detainees in different police cells in the state have swelled up to the extent that some police investigators have turned their offices into cells to ensure that suspected criminals are not let loose to terrorise innocent members of society. Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the NPS announced in court as a result of congestion in Prisons.
As a result, Police investigators are confused about what to do to numerous suspects arrested for different violent offences including murder, cultism, robbery, felony etc. Police sources said ADR is strictly for minor cases like land matters, tenant/landlord disputes etc and not for violent crimes.
It was learned that after the announcement, the number of suspects in police cells has grown astronomically to the extent that investigators are finding it difficult to deal with the cases before them, especially violent crimes. Before this development, violent crime suspects normally were remanded in prisons while the court decided their fate.
Checks revealed that police cells are now filled with hardened criminals exerting more challenges for police investigators.
Vanguard was told that the situation has become very bad to the extent that some police stations transfer suspects to other stations in the state with space to avert the danger of epidemic or cell break. It was gathered that when the Comptroller of Prisons in Lagos paid a courtesy call on the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, weeks ago, he lamented that all the five prisons in the state were designed for 4500 inmates but had no fewer than 9,500 inmates.
He reportedly stated that there was no more space in Prisons in the state and if more people were brought to the prisons, it would lead to an outbreak of diseases or even jailbreak. This came on the heels of the fact that the judiciary has not exercised its right of prerogative of mercy to grant freedom to even awaiting trial inmates whose statutory punishments are not up to five years, but are still awaiting trial for that long. Worse still, there are many inmates on death row but governors have not signed their death warrants.
Speaking on the situation, Lagos State Police spokesman, David Hyndai said “We are aware of the pronouncement by the Nigeria Correctional Center and its effect on us but it will not deter us from carrying out our constitutional duties. We cannot stop arresting criminals, we still receive distress calls and we are still making arrests. We hope the courts will soon resume accepting suspects.”
In his comment, the Public Relations Officer of NPS, O. Oladokun said: “We did not stop receiving suspects from police. It is from the court we normally receive and it is not a total embargo. It is just a partial restriction on the volume that we take from the court. It was done because of congestion in our prisons. There are alternatives. That is why the Controller of the Correctional Center, the Attorney General and the Chief Judge are trying to resolve the issues and they made a commitment that it.”