Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Anambra state may lose the European Union support for the establishment of correctional institution for children who are in conflict with the law if it fails to provide a suitable site for the project within the next fortnight.
This is in accordance with the assessment report on the state of correctional facilities for children in Anambra state presented by Dr. Ifediorah Wilfred Orakwe, Senior Consultant at AZBA Consults Abuja and consultant to the British Council on ROLAC project.
Orakwe who presented the assessment report during a stakeholders meeting at Geo-Gold hotel Awka on Thursday, explained that Anambra state was one of the states selected by the EU for the Rule Of Law and Anti-corruption (ROLAC) project to help Anambra set up correctional facilities for the treatment of young offenders in accordance with the Child’s Right Act.
He said that the Anambra State Government presented a site in August this year for the ROLAC project but that it was yet to provide a space where EU would assist in the renovation and refurbishment of the facility.
The consultant therefore maintained that it would not be in the interest of the state, if it did not benefit from the EU-ROLAC support, adding that the absence of children correctional centres was the reason for the non-implementation of the criminal justice system for children in conflict with the law in Anambra state.
Orakwe also noted that the state government had appointed judges, magistrates, assessors and a host of others but the absence of facilities for implementation has become a hindrance, emphasising that ROLAC might withdraw its sponsorship if the Anambra State Government failed to provide adequate site for the project.
He added that the absence of correctional facilities had culminated in judges and magistrates sending children to prisons from where they graduated into adult criminals detrimental to the society.
He also pointed out that even though the Anambra State Government had adopted the Child’s Right Act, he observed that the state government was yet to have a criminal justice system for young offenders.
The Anambra Coordinator of ROLAC project Josephine Onah said ROLAC was a programme funded by the European Union and implemented by the British Council. She said the programme resonated with the federal government fight against corruption and reform of the rule of law.
According to Onah, the programme functions across four components which includes supporting effective implementation of the administration of criminal justice law, supporting access to justice for women, children and persons with disabilities, supporting issues surrounding anti-corruption as well as building capacities of civil society organisations for more proactive engagements with government.
The coordinator explained that an assessment was carried out in Anambra state to ascertain the level of implementation of the Child’s Right Act but the outcome of the investigation revealed that Anambra state needed a correctional centre urgently for the effective implementation of the Child’s Right Law.
Onah noted that the state government had proposed a site for the correctional centre at Abagana in Njikoka local government area but on assessing the site, they discovered that it was inadequate.
She however made a passionate call on the Anambra State Government through the state ministry of women and children to provide an alternative space that would be adequate together with all the requirements of a correctional facility for young offenders to prevent them from being remanded in adult prisons while emphasising the dire need also for an active children’s parliament in the state even as ROLAC was poised to partner key justice sectors to ensure effective implementation of the Child’s Right Law in the state.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary of the Anambra State Ministry of Women and Children, who was a participant at the meeting, Dr. Azuka Ofomata, admitted that ROLAC was ready to refurbish any under-utilised secondary school facility for the correctional centre.
Ofomata stated that what the European Union required from the Anambra State Government was only an abandoned institution which it would refurbish for habitation stressing that the state government was equally playing its role in ensuring that under-aged children in conflict with the law have befitting centre where they can stay interim for proper rehabilitation and reintegration.