News SPORTLIGHT: THE FATE OF AWAITING TRIAL PERSONS AND HOW GAVEL USE CIVIC TECH TO HELP

October 16, 2017by Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa0

Tunde (real name withheld) was charged in a Magistrate Court sometimes in the year 2010. Because the Magistrate had no jurisdiction to try him and his legal advice has not been issued by the Ministry of Justice, he ordered that Tunde should be remanded in Prison while the Court awaits the legal advice. Tunde has since then been in prison and has been caught in the web of administrative inefficiencies in the justice sector. He has already spent 7 years not knowing his fate. What if Tunde is finally found not guilty? This is the fate of thousands in Nigerian prisons.

The reason Gavel was founded was for people like Tunde. Gavel is a civic tech organization aimed at increasing the pace of justice delivery in our society by applying tech to administrative activities that are done manually and also bringing to fore; cases of inmates that are staying unduly long in our criminal justice system.

Gavel tracks time spent by inmates in custody and ensures it complies with the statutory time provided in the extant laws. Remand orders should ordinarily not last more 14 days renewable for another 14days. However, what we see is that people are remanded in prison and continue to spend over 6 years.

When Gavel’s lead partner spoke to an officer of the Prison, she said 40% of people awaiting trial in their facility are waiting for legal advice and legal advice should ordinarily not take more than 14 days a lawyer said.

What is Gavel doing to help? Gavel tracks cases of awaiting trial persons that are spending more than the required time by law, engage with the relevant authorities on ways to fast-track these cases, provide legal representation for the inmates by providing lawyers if need be and finally get justice for them.

Nelson Olanipekun Esq., Lead Partner of Gavel, said that they are presently tracking and representing 34 cases and they intend to track more when they have the necessary resources. Speaking about their achievements, he said they have also gotten bail for two inmates and are awaiting their sureties to come around for processing and proper documentation. He further said that they have engaged with Oyo State ministry of Justices on about 14 cases of awaiting trial persons and working with them to resolve their matter. It is saddening to say that awaiting trial persons in some prison facilities are 8 times more than the convicted inmates. In a particular facility, the number of the convicted male inmates are just 116 while the awaiting trial persons are 940. The saddening fact is that some of these awaiting trial persons’ case files are just abandoned on a fine table in one office Nelson noted.

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