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President wants speedy trials, decongestion of correctional centres

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• PTF okays distribution plan for medical equipment as FG focuses on high-burden states

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sought urgent measures to speed up trial of cases and decongestion of correctional centres in the country in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, the President drew attention to the recent call by the United Nations on all countries to consciously reduce the population of inmates in prisons since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions were practically impossible.

He said, “From available records, the inmates population at various penal centres across the country presently stands at about 74,127 of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).

“Most of these centres presently house inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and members of the public in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.

“In view of the above scenario, the President said it had become imperative for the CJN to request state chief Judges to embark on an immediate visit to all correctional centres in their respective states to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already.”

He noted that during such visits, the Chief Judges are enjoined to consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent 6 years or more in custody. ATPs who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and terminally ill may be discharged.

Besides, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 approved the distribution plans for medical equipment and consumables in stock to states of the federation.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, stated that the measure was deliberately aimed at ensuring prevention of spread of coronavirus.

“The physical distribution shall commence immediately and this will be in addition to the Jack Ma equipment and materials already distributed to the states,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said there was the need to pay special attention to some states with heavy burden, particularly, Kano in its response with priority placed on Intensive State Level Support.

He explained that government was looking at the possibility of reopening schools across the country through a coordinated approach with the states according to Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.

For the time being, parents have been advised to assist their children to key into online learning platforms on radio and television. Mustapha, who stated this at the PTF daily media briefing, said that the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative on the PTF have been touring the states to assess and standardise their infrastructure and their readiness and had so far visited Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Delta, Katsina and currently in Kano while three more states will be covered by Wednesday (today).

Nwajiuba said the Ministry of Education has postponed the dates for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) examinations.

He noted that the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) would work with the State Universal Basic Education Commissions to develop on line contents adding that 14 states have commenced learning on radio, TV.

Also speaking, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunmibe Mamora, who expressed optimism that Nigeria would be certified poliovirus-free by June, observed that government us doing active case search for coronavirus in communities following various evidence of community transmission.

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