29th November, 2011
Justice Dorothy Inyamba Idem, the Chief Judge of Cross River State has set free twenty four inmates of the Federal Prison in Afokang, Calabar, Cross River State.
Justice Idem who undertook a two-day visit to the prison on Monday and Tuesday despite the ongoing strike by civil servants in the state was told by the prison authorities that out of the 333 inmates awaiting trial, some of them having spent an upward of three years in detention for offences such as assault and contempt of court.
The Chief Judge who went through the cases presented to her patiently alsoÂ grantedÂ bail to two accused persons, includingÂ an 81-year old chiefÂ of the village of Ikot Effanga in Akpabuyo, Chief Ata Okon Aqua, accused of robbery.
SheÂ frowned at the attitude of the police in failing to present original case files of suspects to the Director of Public Prosecution for proper legal adviceÂ and prosecution.
Justice Idem who was moved by several cases of persons incarcerated for long periods without being taken to court, said it was a shame that the police and the office of the DPP were not up to their responsibilities as prosecuting agents of the law. â€œIt is a shame that in many cases that have been under investigationÂ for over two years we do not have records or case files on themÂ and people are being detained. This is tantamount to unlawful incarceration and in the circumstance, some of them have to be set free,â€ she stated.
The Chief Judge who visited the prison with a retinue ofÂ high court judges and magistrates in the Calabar Judicial Division while reacting to the case of one Samuel Asuquo Joseph who had been awaiting trial since January 2009 for assault, called on the police to sit up and prevent young men who formed the bulk of those in detention, from languishing in prison cells for unnecessaryÂ reasons.
Reacting to a case where a female police officer falsely accused a young man, Ubong Lawrence of robbery following a misunderstanding and had spent two years in detention, the Chief Judge said there was room for compensation in criminal cases and cautioned the police in handling armed robbery cases reported to them.
The Chief Judge started by setting free those with severeÂ medical cases.Â Three HIV positive persons were set free. One of them, Coco Itaita who hadÂ been in theÂ cell since 15 February, 2010 for alleged armed robbery could barely walk. â€œHe has complicated cases of TB infection and is reacting to the antiretroviral drugs being administered on him,â€ a prison official told Justice Idem.
Another robbery suspect,Â said to be HIV positive, Ndifreke Michael was alleged to have undergone TB treatment twice but was re-infected and this the prison official said was creating fears in both inmates and staff of possibleÂ spread ofÂ the infection. He was also freed.
Another inmate, Ini Tom Akpan who was detained for having unlawful carnal knowledge and whoseÂ HIV status had worsened was to be set free but following a mix up with another Ini Tom Akpan accused of robbery, had to wait for his case to be verified in two weeks for action to be taken on his case.
A five- month pregnant inmate, Ms Emem Udo Udo who was detained for being in possession of 600 grammes of marijuana was released because of the severe bleeding she was going through. She was released to preserve the life of the baby and hers but warned to be of good behavior by Justice Idem.
The Chief Judge rounded off the visit by expressing gratitude to the staff of the judiciary for showing up in the prison despite the ongoing strike by workers in the state. He called on youths to stay off crime.Â â€œThe bulk of those here are youths, crime does not pay. I am calling on them to live a responsible life,â€ she concluded.
ByÂ Emma Una/Calabar