By Ibironke Ariyo
The Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) an NGO, called for the effective implementation of Nigerian laws that addressed the issue of high number of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs) in Custodial Centres.
This is contained in a statement issued on Wednesday in Abuja in collaboration with the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Forum on Detention and Corrections.
The statement was signed by 19 CSOs by PRAWA spokesperson, Mrs Ogechi Agu.
It stated that several research reports and available statistics as at date indicate clearly that congestion was a major challenge bedeviling the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).
The NGO said over-crowding in some of the Custodial Centres across the Federation is caused by the high number of ATPs in custody and this should be dealt with as already indicated.
“Now, the focus should be on putting mechanisms in place for the implementation of the sections of the NCoS Act.
“This in which provides for the handling of condemned inmates and for management of congestion in custodial centers.
“Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure effective implementation of section 12(2)(c) of the NCoS Act which provides that “where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal;
“And a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence, the chief judge may commute the death sentence to life imprisonment.
“Our general concern now should be to ensure that this provision is fully tested exhaustively up to the appellate court.
“Especially regarding the issue of computation of when the period of ten years indicated in the act will start counting for those applying for commute of their death sentences to life, ” it stated.
The statement further said that very important also was the implementation of section 12 (four to 12) of the Act which provides for the early warning signal for action to the relevant persons and institutions.
It stated “such as the Attorney General of the Federation and that of the States and the Chief Judge of the FCT and that of the State as the case maybe for action when a custodial center is exceeding its capacity to ensure that action is taken to decongest such centers.
“Specifically, sub-section (8) of same section 12 empowers the State controller and superintendent in charge of a custodial center to reject more intakes of inmates when a centre is filled to capacity.
“As a measure to address congestion, Nigeria should also be focusing on addressing inflow into custodial centers by adhering to use of pretrial detention.
“This is as a measure of last resort as advised in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures and by giving all the necessary support to the effective implementation of non-custodial measures.
“This is as provided for in parts 44 and 45 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Part 2 of the NCoS Act and other relevant laws in Nigeria, ” it stated.
The NGO called on stakeholders to work to ensure that legal and other necessary measures put in place to reduce high number of ATPs in custody were effectively implemented.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said various custodial centres across the country, presently stand at 74,127, out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs).
Malami in his letter dated April 9, said he was drawing the attention of the governors to President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval and authorisation for urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional/custodial centres.
The government had announced pardons aimed at decongesting correctional centres across the country amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The justice minister urged the governors to direct the chief judges in their states to identify and release deserving inmates.
Malami said he had in the letters titled “Urgent need for speedy decongestion of Custodial Centres”, noted that from available records, the inmate population at the
The AGF said the development posed 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.
NAN reports that as at March 2020, Nigeria has a total of 244 custodial centres, 139 of which are the core outlets and 85 as satellite centres. (NAN).