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COVID-19: Malami writes governors on speedy decongestion of correctional centres

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Malami

‘Inmates Will Die In Numbers If Coronavirus Hits Centres’
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has written to governors of the 36 states of the federation, drawing their attention to President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval and authorisation for urgent measures to speedily decongest correctional/custodial centres in the country to avert the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement in Abuja, yesterday, by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in his office, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, the minister, in the letters, dated April 9 and titled, ‘Urgent need for speedy decongestion of custodial centres,’ noted that from available records, the inmate population at the various centres across the country currently stands at 74,127, out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs), adding that most of the centres now house inmates beyond their capacities.

This came just as United States-based Nigerian afro-dancehall singer and prison reform advocate, Yinka Lawanson, warned that inmates would die like chickens if Coronavirus hits the various centres across the country.

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Lawanson, in a statement on April 8, cautioned that although the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) said necessary actions had been taken to curb and prevent the pandemic from invading correctional facilities, as at January this year, the total population of inmates in the centres was 72,677, with convicted numbering 21,890 and awaiting trial totaling 50,737.

“Based on this, 70 per cent of the total number of inmates are awaiting trial, while 30 per cent have been convicted. The correctional centres are grossly congested in Nigeria and with the pandemic, it has become a reason to voice out and deal with an impending threat.

“Cases in point to buttress this are the Port-Harcourt, Ikoyi and Kirikiri Medium Custodial Centres in Nigeria, which house 4,000, 3,078 and 3,337 inmates, respectively. The aforementioned facilities are built to house no less than 800, 800 and 1,800 inmates each, respectively,” he stated.

Malami acknowledged that congestion of the centres poses a threat to the health of the
inmates and the public, in view of the dangers of disease; hence the need to bring the situation under control.

“In light of the above, Mr. President requests all executive governors to request their state Chief Judges (CJs) 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 AGF explained that at the requested visit, the CJs should consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent six years or more years in custody and that those who have no confirmed criminal cases against them be released.

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