The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has written to Governors of the 36 states to draw their attention on the need for speedy decongestion of Custodial Centres.
Malami in a statement issued in Abuja by Dr Umar Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media in said President Muhamamdu Buhari had approved urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional centres across the country in view of the COVID–19 Pandemic.
The Minister said that from available records, the inmate population at the various custodial centres across the country presently stands at 74,127 out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs). He added that most of these centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities.
“The development poses 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 the light of the above, Mr President requests all Executive Governors to request their State Chief Judges to embark on visits to all correctional centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already.”
Malami enjoined the Chief Judges to consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent six years or more in custody and those who have no confirmed criminal cases against them.
“Other inmates to be considered include the aged, those with terminal illnesses, low risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody and convicts of minor offences with or without option of fines.
“Also included are 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.”
Malami also said 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. He notified them to take measures to facilitate the setting up 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.