President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to decongest Nigerian prisons amid the Coronavirus pandemic, in order to reduce the risk of person to person transmission in overcrowded prisons.
Early this month the Federal Government granted amnesty to no fewer than 2,600 inmates as part of measures to decongest prison facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nigeria has about 74,127 prisoners out of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP) according to prison records and Buhari says decongesting of the nation’s prison system is paramount in order to follow new United Nations guidelines due to the ongoing pandemic.
Buhari in a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria said, “From available records, the inmates population at various custodial centres across the country presently stands at about 74,127 out of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).
“Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose 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 view of the above scenario, 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.”
“ATPs who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and terminally ill may be discharged.
“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 three years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract five 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.”