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The Latest Mission to Deal with Failures in Nigeria’s Justice System

In 2016, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello began visiting prisons in his own jurisdiction, and the following year a presidential committee on prison reform and decongestion was established, which is led by Justice Bello and funded by the federal attorney general. The judge has visited 36 prisons and ordered the release of 3,822 inmates – about 5% of the Nigerian prison population. “It is part of my statutory responsibilities as chief judge to visit the prisons and address some challenges,” Justice Bello said. “One of them is congestion, others are when [defendants] stay in prison without going to court. There are many lapses that need to be addressed, so it has been my tradition as head of court to do that.” Spending longer awaiting trial than the maximum sentence for the crime violates the most basic legal protections guaranteed to Nigerian citizens, not to mention one of the few principles of international law that can be considered truly universal – habeas corpus.