Against the background of the prevailing pandemic Covid – 19 health challenges, the Federal Government has taken bold steps to further decongest Correctional Service formations.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami stated that President Muhamadu Buhari has been mindful of the need to decongest prisons with particular regards to the fact that around seventy percent of the inmates of the Nigerian Correctional Service Centres are awaiting trial.
This is contained in a statement from Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and made available to newsmen on Friday 27th March, 2020.
Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari has constituted the Presidential Committee for the decongestion of the Correctional Centers across the country. The Committee which is coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Justice, has recorded great success.
The Committee comprising of the Honourable Minister of Interior, Attorney-General of the Federation, Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Correctional Service Centers; the Chief Justice of the FCT and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service in order to reconsider what measures could be put in place for decongestion of Correctional Service Centres in view of the present health challenges.
The Committee recommended that Courts, Federal Ministry of Justice, the Correctional Service formations, Governors, Attorney-Generals of States, among others be encouraged to intensify actions to ensure that the Correctional Service formations are not further congested taking into consideration the prevailing health challenges associated with Covid- 19.
The Committee requested that Mr. President may wish to consider his powers of Prerogative of Mercy in speeding of decongestion, while Governors of States and their CJs be encouraged to visit correctional service formations for the purpose of decongestion.
The Committee is of the view that the Federal Executive Council and the State Governments be encouraged to consider payment of fines in respect of minor offences for those categories of inmates that could not afford paying of same in respect of offences that attract fines arising from the convictions.
Part of the resolutions were also that Correctional Service should, as well, consider the possibility of moving inmates from congested Correctional Service Formations to centres that are less congested and have space for accommodation of inmates, among others.
By way of long term measures, the possibility of amending the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by way of considering an amendment that will move the Correctional Service formations from Exclusive to Concurrent Legislative List among others is equally considered.
The categories of inmates that will be considered most are those that stayed in Correctional Service Centres for a period above ten years, those that stayed as inmate for a longer period without any documentation relating to their detention, those that have the option of fine, those that have been in the Centers on holding charges in respect of offences that the Magistrate that sent them to Correctional Service Formations do not have the jurisdiction to try the cases, among others, but excluding those inmates serving jail terms for capital offences such as murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and treason among others.