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Access to Justice tasks Federal Government to investigate death of Kaduna inmates

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Seeks quick decongestion of detention facilities over COVID-19
Nigerian human rights watchdog, Access to Justice (A2J) has charged the federal government to initiate a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the incident in Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre that led to the loss of lives of inmates of that centre.

According to the group, those who used force disproportionately to suppress riots should be brought to justice and held accountable for their acts of violence.

“We ask for the suspension immediately from office, of the leadership of the Kaduna Correctional Centre in order to ensure the integrity of any investigation and reduce risks that vital evidence relevant for an investigation may be tampered with.

“Provide immediate and adequate medical treatment to all persons who sustained injuries in the protests as well as to pay compensation to the families of those killed in the course of the riots,” the group said in a statement endorsed by its convener, Mr. Joseph Otteh and project director, Deji Ajare.

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A2J said it is pleased to note that the Minister of Interior, working with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, is already taking steps towards decongesting Nigeria’s custodial centres.

“However, these steps are not materialising with the urgency of the situation at hand and time is running out fast. We therefore urge the minister to expediate action on the decongestion of custodial centres,” it prayed.

Also, the group raised concern about the risk of COVID-19 spreading to other places of detention in Nigeria outside of the prisons. It said: “Other places of detention would include police cells, detention facilities of other crime fighting agencies such as the EFCC, ICPC, DSS, NDLEA, NAPTIP, NAFDAC and Immigration. There are people who are reportedly in detention in some of these facilities because they cannot be charged to court yet given that courts are not sitting routinely at this time.”

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It therefore called on the authorities concerned to ensure urgent decongestion their cells by immediately releasing on bail, persons still held in custody for bailable offences.

“We call on the heads of other law enforcement agencies to immediately decongest their cells and take measures to ensure that any detainees who remain in their facilities are adequately protected against risks of contracting the disease.

“We request governors to commute sentences of convicted persons so that persons who have served a substantial portion of their sentences be released immediately in order to further reduce prison populations and associated risks of the contagious spread of the COVID-19 disease,” they urged among other appeals.

On April 1, 2020, a riot was reported at the Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre, which resulted in the alleged killing of at least five inmates by prison officials in efforts to quell the protests or riot.

A2J said the killings were an unfortunate violation of the fundamental rights of the inmates and of the rights of their family members, notwithstanding whether the prisoners are on death row or not, adding that the right to life can only be taken away by the enforcement of the judgment of a court.

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