Nigeria to launch Guidelines for Non-Custodial Sentencing to Address Correctional Centers

The Federal Government has said that a Sentencing Guidelines 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 who made this known in his keynote address at a 2-day Retreat on Correctional Service Reform, in UyoAkwa-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.

Apata assured, “This pilot document will be extended to other States of the Federation, especially those States that have enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Law.

He 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..

At that Workshop which brought together critical Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice Sector, he added: “Both at the State and Federal levels, it was resolved that for a proper and effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, there is the need for Stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive implementation framework. It was also agreed that a Sentencing Guidelines should be produced and issued for the implementation of non-custodial measures provided under Part II of the Act.

He stated that the Retreat is organized to harmonize the  inputs of the stakeholders at the National Workshop and the inputs of a Technical Working Committee put in place by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform with the support of the Rule of Law and Anti Corruption Program Office (ROLAC).

He disclosed that the Retreat will critically appraise ‘Emerging Issues in Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion in Nigeria’I see this as a welcome development considering that over the years, our Correction Service System had faced some remarkable challenges. However, I trust that the outcome of this Retreat will help in addressing some of these challenges especially with the help of the emerging issues such as the administration of non – custodial measures and other new innovations under the NCSA, 2019.

Apata 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 supports, 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 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 that will bring sense of remorse, will accord inmates learning and adaptability to a new environment you introduce will go a long way to impact behavioural change.

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.

On the part of the State government, Governor Udom promised to look into the Correctional Service Reform to support the Federal Government especially in providing training for the inmates at the State Skill Acquisition Centers. He believed this will help reshape the character of the inmates.

Earlier, 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 welcome stakeholders and participants to the Retreat. He said the purpose of the Retreat is 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 when you can engage them in a non-custodial centres where their labour certainly will add to economic development of government.

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.

 

Modupe Ogundoro

Deputy Director