The Kaduna Correctional Centre has operationalised a new set of conditions for client inmates in the facility to be accessed, with the rules described by lawyers as obnoxious, stressful and dangerous.
The authorities of the Kaduna centre recently set out eight conditions that must be met as the minimum requirements for lawyers seeking interviews with client inmates in its centre.
An Assistant Superintendent Controller of the Kaduna centre, Abubakar Zain, in a letter of notice, posted to the lawyers’ platform and dated November 11, 2020, stated that henceforth, a valid, sealed and signed written application by the legal practitioners should be addressed to the Deputy Controller, Medium Security Custodial of the Kaduna centre, before visitation.
The notice also stated that applications should be forwarded at least 24 hours before the visitation, and shall only be granted in respect of one case, regardless of the number of inmates answering the case.
The new rule also noted that a lawyer, wishing to interview more than one client, should apply separately for each, except casemates, adding that the above requirements must be complied with, and COVID-19 guidelines observed, for a successful interview.
But reacting to the notice in a protest letter addressed to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, a legal practitioner, Obiyo Ugoamadi, of O.R Ugo Amadi and Company, Kaduna, described the conditions as obnoxious.
In the petition letter, dated November 25, Ugoamadi stated that the conditions imply that lawyers would wait for about three days or more before being attended to.
He said this was expensive and discouraging for outside jurisdiction lawyers from Kano, Plateau and places as far as Lagos State.
According to him, some of the conditions are a display of “crass and ignorant administration of justice. It is against the relevant provision of Evidence Act, Cap, E. 14.”
Ugoamadi said, “The officer, who posted the notice, has never observed or conducted a criminal trial from arrangements to judgment. The centre is abolishing pre-trial briefing as the counsel could no longer dash to centre to brief the inmates of their case the next day.”
While he described the action as an insult and demeaning to lawyers visiting the centre, Ugoamadi added that the notice reflected the “empty ego of officers at the centre.”
He said, “The correctional centre does not state what it stands to lose in terms of these conditions. It does not know whether the conditions are obtained nationwide or internationally.”
The lawyer also described the process and hurdles to accessing the centre as disparaging and demeaning to lawyers, who intend to render services to their client inmates at the centre.
He said, “Out of the eight conditions, numbers 4 to 6 are subtle denial of lawyers the access to the centre and denial of inmates of their right to access their counsel as provided by Section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”
The petitioner lamented that the barriers set by the centre would constitute a great impediment to the smooth administration of justice, saying the authorities of the Kaduna centre should come out clear and tell Nigeria that lawyers should stop coming to the centre.
“Any Nigerian taken to the centre should forget about his or her right to counsel,” he added.