By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
As part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government has announced that a total of 7,813 inmates have been released from the Nigeria Correctional Service Centres across the country since the outbreak of the disease.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, to celebrate the achievement of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, since it was inaugurated in October 2017, said the measure was taken to reduce risk of inmates contracting the virus.
According to the AGF, the Committee, since its inauguration, had visited and appraised about 39 prisons in 18 states and has released a total of 7,713.
He said it was pertinent to note the inadequacy of Nigeria’s correctional facilities, which are currently operating at more than 150% of their capacity.
He added that there is an ongoing construction of 3000-capacity maximum security custodial centres in Karshi, Abuja and in Janguza, Kano State.
The AGF said, ”Undoubtedly, the COVID19 pandemic has posed its own peculiar challenges in light of the worrisome and dilapidated state of our correctional centres nationwide. Without belabouring the facts, it is pertinent to note the inadequacy of our correctional facilities, which are currently operating at more than 150% of their capacity.
”As part of measures to decongest the custodial centres nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers posed to the centres, the HAGF’s office, the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with Presidential Committee on Correctional Service and Decongestion, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy and State Executives and Other relevant stakeholders,were galvanised to develop measures to overcome the challenges.
”The initiatives adopted we have been able to so far led to the release of about 3,789 inmates while simultaneously reducing the instances of unnecessary test and we intend to sustain this momentum”.
The Chairman of the committee and Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, during the visits to the correctional centres nationwide, the committee carried out inspection exercises where a number of facilities were discovered to be in dire need of urgent rehabilitation and we made recommendations as a matter of urgency to the relevant authorities for the renovation/construction of these facilities.
He said the committee, after a review of cases of inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy and condemned convicts on death row for over 10 years, has written and keeps writing letters of appeal to several State Government Executives to act on some special cases encountered during the visits to some states as well as to exercise their powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death.