1st December, 2010
At least, two hundred women, including a heavily pregnant woman, are currentlyÂ languishing in the female section of Ikoyi Prison, Lagos State, South West Nigeria.Â The women are awaiting trial for different criminal offences.
Statistics gathered from the prison by the the Lagos State Office of the PublicÂ Defender, OPD, revealed that the 200 female prisoners were accommodated in theÂ prison built to accommodate 100 female prisoners.
With 200 females in the prison, it is overcongested because the prison has exceededÂ its original capacity of 100 inmates, the OPD stated.
To decongest the female prison, the OPD says it is going to defend 145 femaleÂ prisoners awaiting trial in the court. Twenty-eight others, it was learnt, had beenÂ convicted.
Director, OPD, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, who disclosed this at the Lagos City Hall, LagosÂ Island, during the marking of the tenth anniversary of the body, revealed that manyÂ of the female prisoners had been there for long, either due to their inability toÂ meet the bail conditions attached to their bail or for minor offences.
According to her, one of the pregnant women in the prison was detained there becauseÂ she unknowingly bought a stolen second-hand generator which led to her arrest andÂ arraignment in court.
She said the woman was remanded in prison because she could not perfect her bailÂ conditions, which included payment of N50,000. She added that her husband desertedÂ her and left her to her fate after she was sent to Ikoyi Prison..
The OPD director also disclosed a lady with a nine-month old baby was also remandedÂ in the prison because she could not pay a debt of N40,000. The trial judge, sheÂ said, granted her bail in the sum of N100,000 which she could not provide. SheÂ described her case as pathetic because it was uncalled for, â€œfor a judge to haveÂ slammed N100, 000 bail condition for an offence amounting to just N40,000.â€
The OPD boss disclosed further that her office was compiling the phone numbers ofÂ elites in the society to assist inmates in paying the small amount attached to theÂ bail conditions granted some of them, as well as defend those still awaiting trial.
She explained that the OPD recently visited prisons in the state and interviewed 25Â inmates awaiting trial to offer them legal representation in court.
â€œHowever, on getting to the prisons, we were overwhelmed by the number of peopleÂ awaiting trial.
â€œAt Ikoyi male prison alone, we interviewed 200 inmates while at the female prison,Â over 30 inmates were interviewed,â€ she stated, adding that the Office also visitedÂ all remand homes and government approved motherless babiesâ€™ homes in Lekki; theÂ Girls Correctional Centre, Idi-Araba and the Boys Correctional Centre, Oregun.
â€œOur aim was to check the welfare of the children who have been in care andÂ protective custody of Lagos State through our office and also update the records andÂ check the welfare of children and young persons in conflict with the law,â€ sheÂ added.
On the presentation of the book titled: Public Defence in a Developing Country:Â Looking Behind and Beyond, Rotimi described the book as a compilation of works byÂ eminent persons in the legal sector ranging from judges, professors and scholars ofÂ law.
â€œThe book highlights the OPDâ€™s mission and vision for justice in Lagos State, itsÂ functions, contributions and the challenges faced by the OPD and public defence as aÂ whole in Lagos State,â€ she said.