The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami has written to state Governors on the need to urgently give effect to the freedom granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to some inmates in prisons nationwide.
The Interior Ministry had, in a statement on Thursday, stated that Buhari approved the grant of amnesty to 2600 prison inmates nationwide and pardoned five others.
Malami, in a statement on Friday, said he has written to governors of the 36 states, drawing their attention to President Buhari’s approval and authorization for urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional/custodial centres in the country in view of the COVID –19 pandemic.
The spokesman to the minister, Umar Gwnadu said, in the statement, that Malami wrote the governors on April 9, stressing the need for urgent decongestion of the prisons, which informed the decision by the President.
In the letter titled: “urgent need for speedy decongestion of custodial centres,” Malami regretted that, from available records, the inmate population at the various custodial centres across the country presently stands at 74,127 out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs).
He added that most of these centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities.
Malami was of the view that the development poses 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.
“In light of the above, Mr. President requests all Executive Governors to request their state Chief Judges to embark on visits to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective states to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already,” he said.
Malami urged the Chief Judges to, during their visits, consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs, who have spent six years or more in custody and those who have no confirmed criminal cases against them.
According to the Minister, other considerable inmates included the aged, those with terminal illness, low-risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, convicts of minor offences with or without option of fines and those who have less than 3 years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their jail term for offences that attract five years and above.
Malami also demanded that “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 Minister told the Governors that President Buhari has approved that “state Governors should, at this stage, take measures to facilitate the constitution of their respective state’s Prerogative of Mercy Committees (PMC) in order to recommend deserving cases for release on grounds of pardon or clemency in line with constitutional provisions”.