As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, has written to the State Chief Judges (CJs) across the nation on the urgent need to decongest prisons to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
In a circular, Muhammad stated, ‘The inmate population at various custodial centres across the country presently stands at about 74,127, out of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs)’.
He further said, ‘Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose 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’.
Muhammad advised the CJs on the need to take urgent measures towards the speedy trial of cases and decongestion of custodial centres in the country in view of Covid-19, adding that the United Nations recently called on countries of the world to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates since physical distancing and self isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.
He urged the CJs to visit correctional facilities to aid the speedy release of ATPs who have spent six or more years in custody. ‘ATPs who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and [the] terminally ill may be discharged. It is expected that particular attention should be on the aged, those with health issues, low-risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, inmates convicted for minor offences with or without the option of fines and inmates who have less than [three] years term left to serve, having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract [five] years and above. Payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with the option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines’.
Source: Premium Times
Photo source: Kim Daram