On Wednesday, December 13, 2023, Justice Ekaette Obot, the chief judge of Akwa Ibom State, granted pardons to ten prisoners who were awaiting trial at the state’s correctional centers.
Six prisoners from the Eket and four from the Ikot Abasi custodial centers were released by Justice Obot during a tour of the facilities. It was discovered that the prisoners had already been detained for years for alleged minor offenses without being prosecuted.
Upon releasing the prisoners, the Chief Judge issued an unconditional charge to maintain good behavior and abstain from any actions that could re-enter the criminal justice system.
She also voiced her displeasure with the Police and the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for holding prisoners for up to three years without bringing charges against them.
She also cautioned against the wrongness of keeping defilement cases open for extended periods of time without bringing charges against the suspects, as this would force the victim to endure emotional and psychological trauma a second time while giving a statement in court or cause them to forget some of the case’s minor details.
“It is glaring that your case file has disappeared and the prosecutor has not given any reason why you should remain in custody,” the Chief Judge declared in all of the cases involving the released parties. We have nothing to hold against you after you spent years in detention without being charged, so we hereby grant you unconditional release. Go home and behave well.
Justice Obot cautioned the police to always uphold human rights and refrain from detaining suspects without first charging them in court. He also advised Ikot Abasi, the Head of Corrections, to always bring the prisoners to court.
Kingsley Udoma, a 20-year-old who had been detained for five months, Uboho Daniel, who had been detained for two years for possessing Indian hemp, Samuel Friday, and Emmanuel Ekanem, who had been free for one year and six months, are the four beneficiaries from the Ikot Abasi custodial center.
Esther Christopher, Ime Udo, Udeme Peter, Kelly Ubokudom, Larry Patrick, and Victor Samuel are the six recipients from the Eket Custodial Center. They were housed there for two to three years without having a case file to bring them before a judge.
Earlier in his speech, Mr. Julius Ezugwu, Controller of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Akwa Ibom Command, thanked the chief judge for coming. He said the visit would help the prisoners a lot and mentioned that the CJ’s prior visit had assisted in decongesting the facility.
“I express my gratitude to the Honorable Chief Judge for his unwavering support of the Center and his meticulous handling of pending trial cases and stalled cases, both of which have significantly decreased the number of prisoners. The medical supplies and toiletries will be very helpful to the prisoners.
There are currently 268 inmates housed at Eket Correctional Center, though it can house 123, according to Clement Enang, the center’s head. Enang claimed that the facility was overworked and that problems with the center’s poor electricity and water supply
He expressed gratitude to the chief judge for making time in her busy schedule to visit the center and check on the welfare of the prisoners.