A significant cause of delay in many criminal cases is the non-appearance of accused persons in court at the scheduled hearing date and time, often leading to the adjournment of the case to another day.
The ‘root causes’ of the inability to transport remand prisoners to court were identified and analysed to include:
- The lack of sufficient and adequate vehicles for the transportation of remand prisoners to court. There are some instances of one vehicle covering several judicial divisions.
- Inadequate resources to maintain and run the vehicles including provision of fuel, parts and regular maintenance.
- Lack of structured procedures for managing the vehicles and associated resources that will enable the NPS to make the most efficient and effective use of them.
- Lack of coordination between Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) and the Enugu State Judiciary. For instance absence of structured setting of adjournment dates and late issue/receipt of hearing notices.
- Non-availability of ‘security escorts’ which prevent the secure and safe transfer of remand prisoners and prison officers to and from the courts.
Improving the capacity of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) to transport remand prisoners to court in a timely manner will facilitate the speed of resolution of criminal trials by reducing one of the major causes of adjournments. Improving performance in this area will also help reduce tension in prisons and improve the prisoner-staff relationship which can be negatively affected when there are problems with ensuring inmates attendance in courts.
The Goal of this project is reduce the frequency of incidences of remand prisoners not being taken to court in good time for their hearings.
- To improve the capacity of the Nigeria Prison Service to transport remands prisoners to court in a safe and timely manner.
- To improve communication between the Nigeria Prisons Service, the Courts and other criminal justice agencies to facilitate the timely notification of court dates and the timely transportation of remand prisoners to court.
- To encourage the Government and other stakeholders to provide the necessary facilities and resources to enable the safe and timely transportation of remand prisoners to court.
Strategy and Expected Activities
The programme proposes to carry out the following activities:
- Assist the Nigeria Prisons Service to carry out an assessment of their capacity to transport remand prisoners to court (e.g. vehicles and their loading capacity, escort vehicles, fuel allowance per (day/week/month/quarter), drivers, escort duty staff (armed squad), spare parts and vehicle maintenance allowance (monthly/quarterly/annually) etc.) and identify and analyse gaps.
- Assist the Nigeria Prisons Service to develop and implement a policy and operational guidelines on the efficient transportation of remand prisoners to court.
- Provision of limited resources and equipment / facilities to aid the implementation of the Nigeria Prisons Service Transportation of Remand Prisoners to Court Policy.
- Assist the Nigeria Prisons Service, Enugu State Command to develop mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the policy. This might include budget review, advocacy for increased budget and support from government, etc
- Assist the Nigeria Prisons Service and other key stakeholders (e.g. Enugu State Judiciary) to develop protocols with other key agencies to enhance coordination between them. Particular focus should be on developing agreed frameworks for setting hearing dates and for providing early notice of hearings to the NPS.
- Training and sensitization of NPS officers on their roles and responsibilities in the transportation of remand prisoners to courts (such as prison escort duty/arms squad staff, records officers, chief warder, welfare officers, drivers, store officers, officers-in-charge of the prison etc.).
- Sensitization of other criminal justice agencies, defence lawyers, and other stakeholders on the need to support the prisons towards implementing safe and timely transportation of remand prisoners to court.