ABUJA (Min of Justice Report) – The Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (HAGF), has called for speedy decongestion of Custodial Centers to meet with International Human Rights Practice.
Malami made this call at the First National Workshop on the Effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, organized by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service and Reform, and the Nigerian Correctional Service, on Monday, 25th November, 2019 in Abuja.
In his keynote address, Malami said that the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 is very critical to the administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria; the Act was a much awaited legislative wand for bringing to an end the hydra headed problems associated with overcrowding and prisons congestions in the country.
He said, “With this Act in place, we now have the much-needed legislative backbone for the comprehensive implementation of the national policies and strategies for prisons decongestion in Nigeria and I cannot but give credit to Mr. President for his demonstrable commitment towards the speedy decongestion of Nigerian prisons, now Correctional Centers”.
The HAGF recapped that President Muhammadu on assumption of office, raised alarm over the deplorable state of prisons nationwide, noting that it is a national disaster and that many of the prisons were about 90% over crowded. He stressed the need to put in place urgent measures to speedily decongest the Correctional / Custodial Centers.
He further explained that one of the recommended measures is the enactment of a new legislative framework in line with international best practices, saying President Muhammadu Buhari saw this as a step in the right direction and demonstrated his commitment to the decongestion of correctional centers in Nigeria when he signed the Correctional Service Bill, 2019 into Law. “With this Act in place, it is hoped that in no distant time, Correctional Centers will be fully and systematically decongested’’. He emphasised.
The Attorney General said part of the innovation in the new Act includes, provision for both custodial and non – custodial services, under section 1(2) of the Act, empowers the Chief Judge with discretion to commute death sentence to life imprisonment, where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedure for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence.
Also, provision of separate facilities for female inmates in all States of the Federation such as medical and nutritional needs of female inmates including pregnant women, nursing mothers and babies in custody.
Highlighting the achievements made so far by the Committee, Malami said a total number of Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty-Eight (3,768) inmates have so far been released. He therefore called for collaboration and support of all Justice Sectors Stakeholders in the implementation of the Act provision.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Solicitor General of Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata SAN, said the event has presented an avenue to commend the gallantry team spirit and unrelenting efforts of all Stakeholders and Reform Champions, for the realization of the dream for a new order of Prison Services in Nigeria.
The Chief Judge, FCT High Court/Chairman, Presidential Committee on Correctional Service and Reform, Hon Justice Ishaq Bello, in his goodwill message said, the provisional Act would bring a new orientation to meet international practice through the Custodial and Non-Custodial services.
The Women Affairs Minister represented by the Director of Legal Service, Barrister Ifunaya Nwajiagu, said the Act which provide for separate facilities for female inmate, their special needs and care of nursing mothers and their babies is in line with the mandate of the Ministry.
The Minister therefore urged the erudite body of intellectuals to draw up an enduring implementation strategy that will ensure compliance with international Human Rights standard.
The Minister of Interior, represented by the Permanent Secretary of Interior, Mrs. Georgina Ehuria, explained that the Nigerian Prisons Services was changed to Correctional Service in line with international practice. She disclosed that the Ministry is organizing activities for its officers on attitudinal change. This according to her is to enhance well being of inmates and also meet the objective of the law.
In their goodwill messages, representatives of the European Union, United Nations and International Narcotics and Law Department of US Embassy, pledged for increased support and collaboration with the Committee.
Secretary of the Committee, Leticia Ayoola-Daniels, in her vote of thanks, expressed appreciation all Stakeholders and their sponsors for their support while requesting for more collaboration.
Deputy Director (Information)