NBA CALABAR PAYS VISIT TO THE NIGERIAN CORRECTIONAL SERVICE, CALABAR

The NBA Calabar Branch law week began on Monday, the 4th day of April, 2022 with a city walk and a free legal clinic for citizens. The 5th, 6th and 7th day of April were reserved for plenary sessions where several distinguished speakers were invited to deliver cerebral papers on the theme: “WE, THE PEOPLE: AGENDA FOR NATIONAL CONSENSUS”.

On Friday, the 8th day of April, 2022, the Chairperson of the NBA Calabar Law Week planning Committee, Mrs. Nella Andem-Ewa Rabana, SAN and the NBA Calabar Branch Chairman, Mr. Attah Ochinke, led a delegation consisting of the General Secretary of the Bar, Mrs. Joyce Oduah, the NBA Calabar Branch Secretary, Miss Eno Edet, the Branch Week Planning Committee Secretary, Mr. Victor Eyibio and other members of the Branch to the Cross River State Headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service, IBB Way, Calabar.

The purpose of the visit was to pay a courtesy call on the State Controller of Corrections, Cross River State Command, Rev. Ben-Rabbi Freedman and to formally inform him of the Branch’s intention to visit the Afokang Correctional Centre.

The CRS Controller of Corrections, Rev. Ben-Rabbi Freedman

The Chairman of the Branch informed the State Controller that as part of her Bar Week activities, the Branch had scheduled a visit to the State Correctional Facility at Afokang, Calabar and thought it wise to begin the visit with a courtesy call on him as the State Controller.

NBAl Calabar Branch Chairman, Mr. Attah Ochinke

Rev. Freeman thanked the team for the visit and stressed that the role of the Bar in relation to the inmates cannot be overemphasized. He appreciated the bar for organising the Bar week and for stopping by to inspect the facilities as it will help them to see for themselves the work the Service was doing and see how best to assist. He urged lawyers to express their views on what they notice and where they are gaps, to point them out.

He noted that the Nigerian Correctional Services Act had been amended to provide for custodial and non custodial sentences and he hoped that the Bar could help to ensure that some inmates get non custodial sentences. The Controller proceeded to reel out the statistics of inmates in his detention facility, specifically providing the number of those who were awaiting trial, those who had been convicted and those who were still in their custody for their inability to pay the fines or bail sums. He stated that for all of these detainees, he was passionate about them receiving training in skills acquisition but was hampered by the lack of training equipment/facilities for them. He hoped to improve on the training of inmates and urged the Bar to speak to the State executive Council to help provide some training equipments to train the inmates.

He informed the Bar that the Service is faced with a lot of challenges ranging from poor facilities to logistical issues. He particularly mentioned poor infrastructure like dilapidated detention centres and vehicles to convey inmates to court and informed the members that upon resumption as a State Controller, he had managed to attract some federal projects to the State to wit: the renovation of the State headquarters of the Correctional Service along with the custodial centres in Ogoja, Ikom and Obubra. He agreed that more still needed to be done as they was a mud cell with inmates in the Calabar detention Centre, Afokang and he had asked his officers there to remove the inmates from that cell to forestall a collapse of the structure and he intended to write to the headquarters to rebuild that cell. He sadly noted that even though the Correctional facility was located in the State and most of the inmates were Cross Riverians, they received practically no assistance from the Cross River State Government as the Federal Government was their sole sustenance. He however, thanked the Calabar Municipal Government who had built a building within the grounds of the service headquarters and had donated same to the Correctional Service which he stated will be used as an administrative block and for arms keeping.

He assured members of the Service’ wholesale cooperation with the Bar in seeing to the welfare of the inmates and stated that whatever his office could do to give inmates access to justice will be done. He awarded the Chairman of the branch, Mr. Attah Ochinke, with a plaque and pledged support for the activities of the branch in the sum of ₦50,000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira).

The Chairman of the Committee, Mrs. Nella Andem-Ewa Rabana, SAN, thanked the State Controller for receiving the branch and for his gesture of support. She recalled the 1st time she had met Controller Freedman through a faith based organisation, ‘Justice League’, and how receptive he had been to them then even as he was presently to the Bar.

Mrs. Nella Andem-Ewa Rabana,

She also thanked him for his consistency in pleasantly receiving organisations and praised him for his ability and readiness to share information on the statistics and different categories of those in detention. She was impressed at his administrative skills and called on lawyers to recognise this and take advantage of his preparedness and willingness to collaborate. She commented on the improved nature of the State Headquarters of the Service, pointing out that it was indeed a facelift from what she had seen when she last visited the office.

Controller Rev. Ben-Rabbi Freedman pledged to do more. Mrs. Andem-Ewa Rabana, SAN also took the opportunity to inform the Controller of the efforts of the Justice League in ensuring that inmates get some assistance and that they are adequately represented in court. Justice League is one of the arms of REBUILDING LIVES MISSION of the NEHEMIAH APOSTOLIC RESOURCE CENTRE and the NGO is doing tremendous work through its Prison outreach.

Controller Freedman then led the NBA delegation on a tour of the newly renovated State Headquarters which ended with an inspection of the newly donated building by the Calabar Municipal Government. He then personally led members of the Branch to the Afokang correctional centre to meet with inmates.

Miss Eno Edet, NBA Calabar

At the Afokang correctional centre, the team alongside some Magistrates that accompanied them, met with inmates and an inquiry proceeding (a quasi court) was set up. The correctional facility authorities presented inmates who had not been to court since there were arrested and detained or those whose court dates was over 1 year ago and Your Worship, Magistrate Mercy Ene presided over the proceedings.

Magistrate Mercy Ene

At the end of the inquiry process, the cases of certain inmates stood out and Magistrate Ene made the following observations and recommendations:

  1. Bassey Okon Bassey was admitted at the correctional centre on 6th June, 2019 on the offences of Conspiracy, Breaking and Stealing with Charge No. MC/293C/2019. No one else was he allegedly conspired with was arrested with him. The last time he was present in Court was on the 25th of September, 2019.
    Recommendation: That the defendant should be discharged from correctional centre as the prosecution was not diligently prosecuting his case and most importantly, as the offence of conspiracy cannot be committed by a single person.
  2. Christian Friday Jonah was admitted on 15th October, 2019 into the correctional centre on the offence of conspiracy and stealing with charge No. MC/560C/2019. The defendant was last present in court on 22nd October, 2019.
    Recommendation: That the defendant should be discharged from correctional centre as the prosecution was not diligently prosecuting his case and most importantly, as the offence of conspiracy cannot be committed by a single person.
  3. Moses Oko Egede was charged with the offence of identity theft (Debit card).
    Recommendation: From the remand warrant, the defendant is to make to make restitution for the sum of ₦231,000.00 (Two Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand Naira) taken. This means anytime he makes the refund, he would be discharged.
  4. Ayi Ayi Effiong was charged with the offence of conspiracy and obstruction with charge No. MAE/8C/2019. He was last taken to court on the 16th of February, 2020.
    Recommendation: The Magistrate will examine the charge sheet and nature of offence of obstruction for a discharge if possible under the extant law.
  5. Inyang Essien Okon was charged with the offence of illegal disorderly purpose with charge No. MC/251C/2019. He was admitted into the correctional centre on the 17th of May, 2019 and was last in court on the 10th of June, 2019.
    Recommendation: Possible discharge considering the nature of offence.
  6. Inemesit Akaniyenedet (minor) arraigned for child trafficking. She claimed she had been represented by a Barr. Oriv at the last adjourned date. The Bar promised to investigate this and ensure she is adequately represented by Counsel.
  7. Nancy James Edet (minor) arraigned for child trafficking. She has been granted bail in the sum of of N300, 0000 plus landed property.
  8. Happiness Etim Bassey has been convicted to one year imprisonment with an option of fine in the sum of N100, 000.
  9. Other cases that were considered include:
    a. Matthew Edet Okokon granted bail in 2021 but still in detention as he has been unable to pay the fine.
    b. Emmanuel Okon Akpan also granted bail but unable to pay the fine.

After the interaction with the inmates, the team made a tour of the facilities at the correctional centre and finally, presented food items and toiletries to the inmates. These items were received by the Deputy Controller, DC Don.

Other photos of the visit are below:

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