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Efforts to Speed Up Nigeria’s Judicial Process

In a prison population of almost 70,000, more than 50,000 are awaiting trial, many having spent years on remand. Criminal cases are tried in magistrates’ courts and the high court. Similar to the UK, magistrates deal with minor offences such as traffic violations and public disturbances while serious offences are referred to the high court by the director of public prosecution (DPP). It can take several years to get a referral, leaving the suspect is remanded in prison, sometimes for longer than the sentence would be for the crime of which they are accused. In 2016, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, a former chief judge of the Federal Capital Territory, started visiting prisons in his jurisdiction to free prisoners whose remand period had exceeded the maximum sentence possible for the crime. This followed the launch of the presidential committee on prison reform and decongestion, which he heads. The minister for justice, Abubakar Malami, says the committee freed 10,000 inmates in four years.