Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, today freed 80 underage inmates of the Badagry Prisons.
The minors whose ages ranges from 12 to 17 were said to have been arrested and charged with offences of breached of public peace and no means of livelihood.
Justice Atilade said the amnesty granted them was in tandem with the resolution of the judiciary to protect the Child Rights and also decongest prisons nationwide.
Only 28 names out of the 80 minors released yesterday, were sent to the Lagos State Prisons Decongestion Committee headed by Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, for a review of their cases.
But a visit to the prison showed that 90% of the inmates in the prisons were actually underage and the Chief Judge had to painstakingly reviewed more cases together with her team.
Justice Atilade who was very surprised at the total number of minors in that prison condemned the act of imprisoning underage irrespective of their offences.
While setting the inmates free, the Chief Judge admonished them to be of good behaviour and to “go and sin no more.”
“I pronounce, pursuant to the provisions of Sections 1(1) of the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) Act, 2007 as well as Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, you are all hereby released from custody”, Atilade said.
The Chief Judge thanked various stakeholders including Office Public Defendant (OPD), Prisons Decongestion Committee and numerous non-governmental organisations that have worked tirelessly to ensure the freedom of the inmates.
Justice Atilade specially thanked, Mrs. Dupe Olubanwo, a social worker, who she said initiated the emergency prison visit due to her outcry of the overwhelming underage inmates languishing in Badagry Prison.
Justice Yetunde idowu, who is the head of Family Court Division of the Lagos State Judiciary also condemned underage imprisonment,
According to her, the Lagos State and the Judiciary have zero tolerance for child abuse of any sort.
“Keeping a child in prison for more than 24 hours traumatises such child and such should not be condoned at all in the state. We don’t want to encourage delinquency and we are starting today.
“The aim of the Criminal Justice System in respect of child offender is rehabilitatory and reformatory. We are urging everyone to quickly bring these kind of cases to our attention
Lagos State Solicitor-General, Mr. Funlola Odunlami also stressed that the state especially Governor Akinwumi Ambode frowned at Child Abuse and will not condone child imprisonment.
Odunlami also promised the prison authority that even though the prison is a federal agency, the state would look into all of their demands as always.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Deputy Comptroller General in charge of Badagry Prison, Mr. Oyeniran Famuwagun decried the decongestion of the prison
He said the prison which now house 584 inmates was built to accommodate 320 inmates.
He explained that 195 of the inmates are on the awaiting trial list. 389 others are convicts with a working staff population of about 70 staff.
Famuwagun also complained of inadequate funding, lack of portable water and overstretched infrastructure at the prison particularly vehicles for conveying the inmates to courts.