530 inmates of Correctional Centres in Lagos State have so far taken advantage of the Plea Bargain protocol since it was introduced by the State Government in 2017.
The State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, made the disclosure at the Kirikiri Maximum Custodial Centre in Lagos, when he led officials of the Ministry to a Plea and Sentence Bargain sensitisation session for Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATI).
Onigbanjo said the initiative, which is aimed at decongesting correctional facilities in Lagos State, is in line with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu's reform policy in the administration of criminal justice in the State.
The Attorney-General explained that the Plea and Sentence Bargain process, in collaboration with the Lagos State Command of the National Correctional Centre, the State Judiciary and the Lagos State Police Command, will enhance the concerted efforts geared towards reducing the population of inmates awaiting trials in all correctional facilities in the State.
While noting that the Plea Bargain option is only intended at decongesting prisons and not a ploy to compel inmates to plead guilty to lesser charges, Onigbanjo said the severity of the offence, length of sentences and acceptance or rejection of the offers by the Judge are major determinants in the process.
He stated that 27 inmates in the Kirikiri Correctional Centre - 16 male and 11 females - are beneficiaries of Thursday's Plea Bargain session that will be replicated at the Ikoyi and Badagry Correctional Centres in Lagos State.
The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey, earlier in her welcome address, explained that the Plea Bargain process is in compliance with the Lagos State Justice Law 2015 and a testament to the State Government's commitment to a robust administration of Criminal Justice in the State.
"We are here to correct the impression that a Plea Bargain is for the rich alone. It is for everyone whether they are literate or illiterate, rich or poor," Shitta-Bey said.
The Controller of Lagos State Command, Nigeria Correctional Centre, Adewale Adebisi, said that congestion is the major challenge in all correctional facilities in the State, stressing that the centres are struggling to cope with the congestion caused by 6,000 inmates awaiting or on trials.
He noted that some of the inmates in Kirikiri Maximum and Medium Correctional Centres have been in custody for 10 to 12 years without trial or conviction, imploring inmates who have been standing trial for a long time to consider the Plea Bargain option.