– The Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello, has warned that arresting petty traders is a recipe for more crimes

– Justice Bello gave the warning at a workshop organised by the Prisoners Rehabilitation And Welfare Action (PRAWA) in collaboration with OSIWA

– Justice Bello also described the present practice as dehumanizing and wicked

The Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Bello, has warned that the incessant arrest of traders by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), police and other security agencies will push them to higher crime.

Justice Bello gave the warning at the Dissemination Workshop on Baseline Report on Decriminalization and Declassification of Petty Offences in Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday, April 10.

The workshop was organised by the Prisoners Rehabilitation And Welfare Action (PRAWA) in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA).

Justice Bello who is also the chairman, Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), decried a situation where petty offenders  whose wares are not up to N250 are hurled into incarceration and fined N5,000.

While calling for redefining of a more descent way of punishing offenders, Justice Bello described the present practice as dehumanizing and wicked.

According to him, arresting children who are helping their parents to sell without which they cannot feed and tagging them as ex-convict will stigmatize them in future.

The country director of OSIWA, Jude Ilo, said for the law to thrive, it ought to provide justice for both the weak and the strong in the society, else it will be considered it is not functioning well and there is no justice.

He said the challenge with petty offences is that it is open to abuse and the cost of enforcing the law is unduly high. According to him, those arrested are kept in jail, fed and transported to the courts all at government expense.

His words: “It doesn’t make economic sense to keep them incarcerated, it is needless and doesn’t add to the society. It’s presents our society as uncaring, etc.

“Like I said earlier, it can only be justice if the standard for the best of us is extended to the least of us.”

Executive Director, PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomoh, in her remarks stressed for the stakeholders which include the media, law enforcement agencies and those at the receiving end of descrimilization of petty offenses to work together to find a more acceptable way of doing this.

She also stressed the importance seeing the connection between poverty and criminal justice system.

Also speaking, the head of legal department, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Jude Azi, noted that the challenge is not about the existing laws but to ensure that law enforcement are done with human face.

Meanwhile, a group, Coalition of FCT Indigenous Groups on Thursday, April 11, stormed the gate of the National Assembly in Abuja protesting the killing of one Hamza Haruna allegedly by security operatives in the nation’s capital.

In a letter addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the groups alleged that the belongings of Abuja indigienes were being robbed, their lands were being acquired and farm crops being destroyed by those they described as “invaders.”

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