Legal Assistance and Citizens Rights Initiative (LACRI) has called for non-custodial sentences for petty offences in a bid to decriminalise those offences and further strengthen the criminal justice system.
The Executive Secretary of LACRI, Barrister Arinze Odiari made this known while speaking at a workshop on development of action plan for decriminalization of petty offences in South-West pilot States (Lagos and Oyo) which was held in Ikeja, Lagos.
The two-day workshop was organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), with support from the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI).
Mr Odiari stated that such non-custodial sentences will help reduce congestion in our correctional centers and reduce the discrimination against the vulnerable in the society. He further stated that community service should completely take the place of fines as the poor are usually not able to pay these fines as ordered by the courts and as a result are thrown into prison thereby causing further hardship on the poor who are already victims of lack of social security.
On their part, the National Human Rights Commission represented by the commission’s Deputy Director Investigation, Mr Iheme Richmond, said there is a need to underscore the economic, social and cultural implications of petty offences with the aim of addressing challenges of social security in the country.
He noted with sadness that a good number of awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria’s Correctional centres were petty offenders – Hawking, loitering, failure to pay debt, begging amongst others, stressing that these offences have strong link with poverty.