By Femi Adepoju
The Ondo state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko has registered his name in the nation’s judicial record books as the first administrator to provide a court within the prison premises to accelerate the dispensation of justice.
The provision is the take off point of the state’s newly introduced Rapid Justice System programme meant to accelerate the delivery of justice and decongest the state’s prisons.
With the commissioning of High Court NO. 10, at the Olokuta Prison,Ondo road, Akure, Governor Mimiko has scored another first and further consolidates on his profile as a caring heart Governor who has been variously awarded for his doggedness in the art of governance. The Mimiko Court-in –Prison programme is no doubt novel.
At the commissioning ceremony which has many dignitaries in attendance, including the Deji of Akure, Oba Adebiyi Adesida , Mimiko mentioned that the Olokuta Prison facility has the capacity for 160 inmates only, as against the 688 that are currently accommodated in it .He added that with the court now brought within the Prison there will be a drastic reduction in the number of the inmates.
Dr Mimiko noted that if violent criminals are kept intermittently under remand without the assurance of conclusion of their trials, it might jeopardize the safety of the society, stressing that efforts must be intensified to address the situation, hence the Court-in-prison.
According to him, his administration has taken measures to quicken dispensation of justice system, assuring that all measures that will further assist the criminal justice would be put in place.
Notting that the cost of procuring Black Maria and other logistics support involved in the transportation of accused persons and criminals to and from court was enormous, he maintained that the court within the premises of the prison would hasten prompt and efficient prosecution and conviction of the accused persons, thereby putting an end to perpetual detention of innocent persons.
The Chief Judge of the state, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi disclosed that bringing the Court to the Prison premises is a step in the right direction adding that the idea was well thought out by his office and recommended to the governor who did not hesitate to approve of it and ensure immediate execution.
The Court, The CJ said, will decongest the prisons especially as criminal offenders whose offences are not bailable would be promptly addressed. He disclosed that 80 percent of the 688 inmates in the Olokuta Prisons are awaiting trials on Criminal charges.
The State’s Prison Comptroller -General, M O Olayiwola gave kudos to the governor for the provision, remarking that Dr Mimiko was the first Governor to visit the prison and bring good tidings since the inception of the State. Before the latest provision, Olayiwola mentioned that the Governor had provided the Prison with two vehicles measures he said are proofs of his caring heart which has endeared him to the generality of the people even beyond the state.
Dr. Mimiko, no doubt, has every reason to want to strengthen the judiciary in his state. His stolen mandate was restored to him through a hard judicial process which has eventfully crystallised into a new dawn for the state’s judicial system.
Since he assumed office three years ago, Governor Mimiko has taken many giant steps to ensure the smooth running of the judicial system in the state more than all the previous governments in the state put together.
Just like he has been affecting every other sectors of governance with his exceptionally novel caring heart’s principle, Governor Mimiko has also infected the judiciary with the same caring spirit.
From the inception of his administration, the governor never hid his intention to demonstrate that given the right attention, the judiciary would live up to the expectation of the public.
Carefully, Dr Mimiko studied what have been the militating factors against justice dispensation in the state, and he has with no much ado, been able to remove what could be described as major obstacles against the quick , efficient and effective dispensation of justice in the state.
In fact, the achievements recorded by the Mimiko administration and the peaceful environment existing in the state are as a result of the complementary and harmonious working relationship that existed between the Executive, Legislator and the Judiciary which was made possible through the painstaking assessment of the factors hitherto inhibiting the expected rapport between the three levels of government and effectively plucking them off.
Dr Mimiko has been able to effectively given the judiciary a fair deal, and has just scored yet another first through the sector.
This development has been identified as a major obstacle remover and a permanent solution to the myriad of problems scuttling quick and effective dispensation of justice in the state.
With the development, problems of logistics and resources for the movement of pre-trial inmates to and from various High Courts will be removed just as the coordination of efforts among different stakeholders of the criminal justice system will be enhanced as the court, the investigating Police Officer, the prosecuting Counsel, the prison authority and the witnesses will have ascertainable forum competence, that is the criminal Court as veritable meeting place.
It is also to the credit of the Mimiko government that this latest in his innovative series enhances the identification of Special Criminal Court which will create a high degree of Specialisation for the judex as well as Counsel , even as the perennial buck-passing by the different stakeholders will be eliminated and accountability vis-a-vis whoever is not doing its bit will be easier to detect and quick solution proffered.
As part of the gains of the initiative, documentation of events and data generation on status of criminal cases for use of the police , the prison and prosecutors will be possible at no extra cost.
Though one sure benefit of the erection of courts at prisons premises is the decongestion of courts and the prisons, the policy will also enhance the provision of infrastructures for the special criminal Court for trial of serious offences within the jurisdiction of the custodial environment.
Suffice it to mention also that the difficulties associated with getting witnesses for the prosecutions, securing the presence of defendants and absence of defence counsel will be ameliorated as hearing of criminal cases will be fast-tracked under the keen supervision of the criminal Court judges.
Length of time between arraignment of accused persons and conclusion of cases will be shorter as the special criminal Court will have better grip of matters before it than when the same court attend to criminal, civil and other matters at the same time and a successful implementation of the ideals to be achieved by the creation of Special criminal Court may become a model for the other States of the federation.
It is a credit to the Mimiko administration and to the current administration of the Judiciary that the Laws of Ondo state and civil procedure rules of court for the state have now been reviewed and fully updated, bringing the judiciary in the forefront with the few states in the federation that have done so.
W ithin the last one year, the number of judges have increased from 15 to 17 while application is pending before the National Judiciary Commission for the appointment of more competent Judges to effectively man the courts scattered all over the state. Within the same period, twenty additional Magistrates were appointed by the state Judicial Service Commission to man the newly created magisterial districts in the state, thereby increasing the number of Magistrates to forty.
The Judicial Service Commission also approved the appointment of the Chief Registrar and Deputy Chief Registrar respectively to kick start and midwife the Customary Court of Appeal, which hitherto had been left unattended to since 2007 when the Law establishing the court was promulgated.
The existing Customary Courts all over the State were further galvanised with the appointment of over 80 Customary Court Judges , 6 Rent Tribunal Chairman were appointed for the Rent Tribunal to stimulate the justice delivery system of the various Rent Tribunal , considering the influx of people into the state. The family court was also inaugurated on the 8th June 2011 to give effect to the Child Right Act Law, the State being one of the very few to activate the process of establishing the court.
It is in the spirit of the determination of the government to strengthen the judiciary and further give it the required impetus for expected performance that the Mimiko government decided to lay another record by the latest innovation which has seen a High Court now planted within the Olokuta Prison with the promise of the other courts in the state getting the same privilege soon.
The inmates were not the only beneficiaries of the Governor’s visit to the prison premises at the commissioning. Wives of the prison officials got a dose of the Governor’s caring heart as they were initiated into the state’s Micro-finance loan scheme even as an order was given for the provision of a borehole to be sank for the women’s use within two weeks, being answers to the requests of the women to the Governor on arrival at the Olokuta prison.