Tough bail conditions fuelling prison congestion: Lawyers

Some lawyers in Lagos on Friday blamed prison congestion in Nigeria on stringent bail conditions.

A lawyer and social critic, Spurgeon Ataene, said the rate of prison congestion should compel courts to review bail conditions.

He noted that the Nigeria Correctional Service had repeatedly decried the congestion of prisons across states.

“Stringent bail terms such as the provision of civil servants landed property owners, community leaders or people in blue chip companies as sureties are responsible for the situation we see today.

“Magistrates and judges should not take undue delight in ensuring that minor offenders remain in custody,” he said, suggesting that relatives be accepted as sureties,” he said.

Mr Ataene added that prosecutors should stop unnecessary objections to bail.

Another Lagos-based lawyer, Francisca Madu, urged that bail conditions should be flexible to prevent overcrowding at the remand centres.

“Although remand of suspects pending bail has the backing of the law, it is my opinion that bail terms should not be made onerous,” she said.

Another legal practitioner, Ogedi Ogu, said the imposition of stringent bail conditions by some magistrates and judges contributed much to prison congestion.

“Now, some magistrates have even taken it further by insisting that a surety must be a close relative who must produce a photograph taken together with the accused person.

“They also insist that such a relative must be working in a reputable or blue chip company.

“I honestly do not think that the judiciary, especially in Lagos State, is ready for prison decongestion,” he said.

Mr Ogu urged that stringent bail conditions be scrapped to decongest custodial facilities.

“Judges and magistrates must deem it fit to allow people in self-employment to stand as sureties because continued insistence on ‘reputable company’ is an onerous condition,” he said.