The Federal Government has said that a Sentencing Guideline would be produced and issued for the implementation of non-custodial measures in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, SAN, made this known in his keynote address at a 2-day Retreat on Correctional Service Reform, in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State, on 17th March, 2020.
He said “the Implementation Framework that will emerge from the Retreat will mainstream the roles of critical stakeholders for their consideration and implementation. The essence of the retreat was to ensure that the Act is truly and effectively implemented in line with international best practices”.
According to him, “The second major expected outcome of this Retreat is the review of the Draft Federal Capital Territory Courts (Non – Custodial Sentencing) Practice Directions, 2020; for issuance by the Chief Judge of the FCT, Abuja. This document will enable all courts in the Federal Capital Territory that exercise criminal jurisdiction to award non-custodial sentences as appropriate in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019. This pilot document will be extended to other States of the Federation, especially those States that have enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Law”.
Apata explained that the purpose of the Retreat is to consolidate on the outcome of the National Workshop on the effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, held on the 25th – 27th November, 2019, in Abuja.
He commended the hard work of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform; the Correctional and Reform Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice; and members of the Technical Working Committee for their dedication, commitment and interest towards the development of these critical documents.
The SGF on behalf of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, thanked all International donor partners for their support, also expressed gratitude to the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel for hosting the Retreat.
Declaring the Retreat open, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel commended the initiatives and steps taken by the Federal government to reform the Correctional Service Centres. He expressed his support for the changes and development currently going on in the Correctional Centres describing it as a good thing for the image of the country.
The Governor agreed with the Federal Government’s initiative for the establishment of Skill Acquisition Centres, to bring about development of the Correctional Centres for rehabilitation and transformation of inmates to enable them fit into the society. He emphasized that establishment of Skill Acquisition Centers will bring sense of remorse, will accord inmates learning and adaptability to a new environment. He called on NGOs especially Religious bodies to encourage the inmates with their support in prayers, counselling and skill acquisition programmes to make them better persons.
The Chairman, Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, who doubles as the Chief Judge Federal Capital Territory High Court, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, welcomed stakeholders and participants to the Retreat. He said the purpose of the Retreat was to look into certain innovations which came up in the course of the execution of the mandate as Presidential Committee to reform and decongest Correctional Centres especially the issue of non-custodial sentencing.
He said that there is the need to change the psyche of the people to come to terms with international best practice than to put people behind bars in Correctional Centres.
In his goodwill message, the Senior Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nation Country Team, Dr. Martin Ejidike urged participants never to loose focus on the main objectives of the adoption of the landmark Correctional Services especially to reform and bring the beneficiary system in compliance with the United Nations standard minimum rules for the non-custodial centers.