President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Ibrahim Muhammad, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) to initiate steps to free “deserving” inmates across Nigeria in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The president made the call on Tuesday via a letter addressed to the CJN in which he said state chief justices can immediately visit the prisons to free such inmates.
Nigeria’s prisons are known to be overcrowded as about 70 percent of the over 74,000 current inmates are awaiting trial.
In a statement, Femi Adesina, spokesman of the president, quoted Buhari as saying the overcrowded facilities pose threat to the health of the inmates at this time “hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.”
“It has become imperative for Your Lordship to request State Chief Judges to embark on immediate visit to all custodial/correctional centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already,” Buhari said in the letter.
“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 option of fines and inmates who have less than 3 years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract 5 years and above.
“Payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.”
The president also urged the CJN to consider putting in place special courts in all states and Abuja to try cases of serious offences such as armed robbery and kidnapping “in order to facilitate speedy trials.”
“There is the need to ensure that the Chief Judges of States and FCT High Courts direct lower courts to comply with requirements of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law in issuing remand warrants in criminal cases especially in cases which are not within their jurisdiction,” he added.
According to him, such compliance will regulate the number of inmates awaiting trial being admitted into the prisons.
The federal government had earlier granted amnesty to 2,600 inmates to curb the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.
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