Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has written to Governors of all the 36 states of the federation drawing their attention to President Muhamamdu Buhari’s approval and authorization for urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional/custodial centres in the country in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is contained in a statement by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice issued to newsmen in Abuja on Friday, 10th April, 2020.
Dated 9th April, 2020 the letter was titled “urgent need for speedy decongestion of custodial centres” where the Minister noted that from available records, the inmate population at the various custodial centres across the country stood at 74,127 out of which 52,226 inmates were awaiting trial persons (ATPs).
He added that most of these centres were housing inmates beyond their capacities.
Malami said the development posedl 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 reads in part.
The Attorney-General explained that at the requested visit, the Chief Judges were enjoined to consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who had spent 6 years or more in custody requesting that ATPs who had spent six years or more in custody and those who had no confirmed criminal cases against them.
According to the Minister, other considerable inmates included the aged, those with terminal illness, low risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, convicts of minor offences with or without 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 5 years and above.
Malami also demanded that “payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.”
The Minister notified the Governors that President Muhamadu 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.”