Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The 36 state Attorney Generals and other stakeholders in the criminal Justice sector will next week converge in Abuja to brainstorm on non-custodial Services as provided under the Correctional Service Act, 2019 which was signed into law on August 14 by President Mohammadu Buhari.
Also to participate at the three-day strategic workshop are the Chief Judges of the 36 states of the federation, 20 Representatives of Non Governmental Organization (NGO); Nigerian Correctional Service; Rule of Law experts; experts on prison reforms; all relevant stakeholders and development partners.
This was disclosed Tuesday by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) at an assessment report by the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion, under the chairmanship of the Chief Judge, of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello to fast-track the Decongestion of prisons.
Meanwhile, the Minister disclosed that the Committee has since its inauguration visited and appraised about 34 prisons in 16 states where a total number of 3,768, have been so far released during these visits.
This, he stated, was achieved through payment of fines for convicts for minor offences with the option of fine who are unable to pay the fines, general review of peculiar cases and advocacy overtures to relevant authorities.
Malami further disclosed that the Committee has written letters of appeal to several State Government Executives to act on some special cases encountered during the visits to various prisons in some states as well as to exercise their powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death.
He stated that the Committee also carried out prison’s inspection exercises wherein a number of facilities were discovered to be in dire need of urgent rehabilitation and has made recommendations as a matter of urgency to the relevant authorities for the renovation/construction of prison facilities.
The AGF further revealed that the Committee during its visits, also conducts the review of cases of inmates awaiting trial for upwards of five years, and of inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy with relevant authorities and looks into cases of condemned convicts on death row for over 10 years with the view to getting relevant authorities to commute the sentences to life imprisonmen
Speaking on the proposed workshop, Malami noted that “my office in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion of Prisons and the Nigerian Correctional Service will be hosting a three-day Strategic Workshop in the Month of November, 2019, with the theme, “Towards Effective Implementation of the Correctional Service Act, 2019”.
“The purpose of the National Workshop is to sensitise stakeholders especially Justice Sector Institutions on the provisions of the Act particularly the provisions regarding non-custodial services which is newly introduced. The Workshop provides a veritable platform for the overview and comparative analysis of Correctional Service Act, 2019.
” It will also engage participants to work together towards the development of a strategic Action Plan to support the deployment of non-custodial services as provided under the Act. The plan will comprise of short, medium- and long-term measures that will create the requisite social awareness of the non-custodial services.
Malami explained that his office was instrumental to the speedy passage of the Nigerian Correctional Services Bill in December 2018 and subsequently President Muhammadu Buhari on August 14, 2019 signed into law the Correctional Service Act, 2019(the Act).
“This is a major turning point in Prisons Reform and Justice Sector delivery in Nigeria. The recently passed Act has some innovative provisions which addresses some major issues that have been of concern to stakeholders in the Justice sector. This marks another milestone in our national Strategies deployed towards urgently decongesting the prisons.” He noted.
Earlier, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court and Chairman of the Presidential Committee Prisons Reform and Decongestion, Justice Ishaq Bello gave an overview assessment of the activities and workings of the committee.