The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has written to the governors of the 36 states of the federation over speedy decongestion of correctional/custodial centres in the country.
This is contained in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday by the AGF’s media aide, Umar Gwandu.
Mr Malami in his letter dated April 9, said he was drawing the attention of the governors to President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval and authorisation for urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional/custodial centres.
The government had announced pardons aimed at decongesting correctional centres across the country amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The justice minister urged the governors to direct the chief judges in their states to identify and release deserving inmates.
Mr Malami said he had in the letters titled “Urgent need for speedy decongestion of Custodial Centres”, noted that from available records, the inmate population at the various custodial centres across the country, presently stand at 74,127, out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs).
He added that most of these Custodial Centres are currently housing inmates beyond their capacities.
The AGF said the development posed a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.
“In light of the above, Mr President requests all Executive Governors to request their State Chief Judges to embark on visits to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already,” the letter read in part.
In the statement, Mr Malami explained that at the requested visit, the chief judges are enjoined to consider a conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent six years or more in custody, as well as those that have no confirmed criminal cases against them.
According to the minister, other considerable inmates would include the aged, those with terminal illnesses, low-risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, convicts of minor offences with or without an option of fines and those who have less than 3 years term left to serve, having served a substantial term of their jail term for offences that attract five years and above.
The AGF also said that “payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with an option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.”
He notified the governors that Mr Buhari has approved that “State governors should at this stage, take measures to facilitate the setting of their respective State Prerogative of Mercy Committees in order to recommend deserving cases for release on grounds of pardon or clemency in line with Constitutional provisions.”
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