Presidential Committee free 19 inmates, 75 year old man, Son

The Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Decongestion and Reforms has released a total number of Nineteen (19) inmates including a seventy-five-year-old man and his son from the Kuje (Medium) Security Correctional Centre, FCT Abuja.

Chairman of the Presidential Committee and Chief Judge, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Honourable Justice Ishaq Bello disclosed this to Journalists in Abuja on Thursday December 19th, 2019.

He explained that the conditions for the release of the inmates were based on age, inability to pay fine, ill health overstay of statutory detention period and other factors that could justify their release.

Hon. Justice Bello further explained that the exercise was in line with President Buhari’s foresight to decongest the custodial centers to meet with the international standard of criminal justice and human right standard.

The Chief Judge said that the Committee is working hard to increase Skill Acquisition Centers as part of  rehabilitation of inmates by  acquiring skill on any job of  interest that would be to their benefit to enable them start a new life after the completion of their  statutory detention/jail term from which 25%  from their sales  or proceed would be given to them to establish.

He hinted that the Ministry of Interior and other stakeholders have been engaged for the sustenance of the Acquisition Center.

He cautioned the Chief Magistrates against indefinite detention of inmates in prison while advising them to spell out the sentence if there is compensation, payment of fine, time or year.

Hon. Bello commended them for their compliance to legal procedures and urged them to put more effort in the interest of judiciary.

Bello also expressed appreciation to Pastors Sola and Olukoya who paid the sum of One Hundred and EightyTwo Thousand Naira (N182, 000) as option of fine for some inmates to gain freedom. He urged them to continue in their prayers for the inmates to become responsible citizens that would be useful to themselves and the nation.

The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) Abubarkar Malami, SAN in his goodwill message explained that the purpose of the visit was to; review cases of inmates who have been convicted of minor offences with the option of fines and unable to pay same; review cases of inmates with special cases; carrying out of spot assessment of the condition of the custodial centres and amongst others.

Represented by Mrs. Awanen Janet, a Deputy Director in the ministry, Malami noted that the Committee since its inception had visited 36 Correctional Centers in 17 States of the Federation and the FCT where over three thousand eight hundred and thirteen (3,813) inmates have so far been released.

‘’Indeed, it has already become starkly clear from deliberations during the previous custodial visits that we as a Nation cannot continue to overlook the need for non-custodial measures. Such measures, including community service orders and probation, are clearly provided for in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015’’, he stated.

He expressed that the committee looks forward to learn more through the visits to enhance the final recommendations of the committee s towards more lasting solutions to custodial congestion.

Malami noted that with the support of the Committee, the Federal Ministry of Justice will host a stakeholders’ Summit in the 2nd quarter of 2020. He explained that the Summit aims at bringing together the Honourable Chief Judges, Attorney-General, Nigerian Bar Association, and other relevant institutions to formulate ways of sustaining lasting solutions to custodial decongestion in Nigeria.

HAGF expressed appreciation to partners in the exercise, Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service State Governors, Media and other justice sector actors for their support.

Representative of the Controller General Mr. Mustapha Iliasu in his vote of thanks said, the population of Kuje Correctional Center has overshoot by over 450 inmates while the capacity is 560 inmates. About 822 inmates are awaiting trial while about 145 are convicts.

He said the significant thing about the two people released at the exercise was that they had spent 13 years in custody awaiting trial even though they have been convicted; they have served their jail term.

He noted that awaiting trial for a long time can arouse tension in custodial center. Iliasu appealed to the Stakeholders to cooperate with the Prison decongestion Committee in sustaining the exercise.

Present at the exercise were representative of Human Rights Commission, Federal Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Council.

Mercy Omoyajowo