As part of ongoing spirited efforts to decongest the prisons, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has assented to the community service punishment law, in which convicts will undertake hours of community service for minor offences, instead of prison terms.
Similarly, the governor has advocated the promotion and adoption of alternative dispute resolution to reduce what he called the unacceptable high number of cases awaiting trial before the courts.
The governor bared his mind during a visit to the High Court complex, headquarters of the state judiciary, where he met with the Chief Judge, Justice Munta Abimbola, in company with the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Seun Abimbola, in Ibadan, on Tuesday.
Expressing concern over the incidence of prison congestion across the country, where, he said, a majority of inmates were awaiting trial suspects, the governor restated the need for executive-judiciary synergy to stem the tide.
Ajimobi said, “I have observed the continuing congestion of our courts with lawsuits in spite of various efforts at decongesting same. For this reason, I have directed the AG to work with the CJ to design a structure that will ensure that the issue is finally laid to rest.
“I have also directed the AG to ensure the passage of a law to establish the Oyo State Multi Door Court House as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for easier access to justice and decongestion of dockets (cases for trial).
“Similarly I have assented to the Community Service Law to ensure alternative sentencing regime is available in Oyo state for offenders in minor cases. This is part of our ongoing efforts to decongest the prisons. “
Notwithstanding the principle of separation of powers, the governor called on the judiciary to sustain its support for and cooperation with the executive arm of government for quick administration of justice.
As the third arm of the government, the governor said that the judiciary remained a veritable partner in the quest by his administration to build a new and modern Oyo state where justice was not delayed or miscarried.
Since coming on board, Ajimobi said that his administration had ensured that the state’s judiciary ranked not only high but first among equals in the administration of justice index and excellence of delivery by creating a conducive working atmosphere for the staff.
He pledged his continued support for the judiciary, which, he said, remained the last and only hope of the common man.
In his response, the CJ expressed appreciation for what he called the unalloyed support of the Ajimobi-led executive to the state judiciary, while he appealed for the gazetting of the newly-assented law on the administration of criminal justice.
Commending the governor for the initiative, he said he was confident that the new law would accelerate the judicial process.
Abimbola solicited the repositioning of the state Judicial Service Commission, urging the governor to provide operational vehicles, sitting allowances, among other welfare packages to enhance the performance of the members.
Under his leadership as CJ, Abimbola said that the judiciary achieved the construction and renovation of court buildings and structures, adding that magistrates and other cadres of staff were also promoted.
Already, he said that there were centers in the state serving as community service centers for the furtherance of the community service punishment law, which he said was fashioned after the Criminal Justice Act at the national level.
The CJ said, “I urge your excellency to direct the publication of the law in the official Gazette for its implementation.
“We consider this visit very important and its aftermath will undoubtedly affect the administration of justice of this great state. The judiciary under my leadership will continue to evolve strategies and partnership with the government to enhance dispensation of justice.”