By Olalekan Awojodu
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, hinted Thursday that Correctional Centers across the country have so far released over 11,000 inmates.
Malami who stated this at the opening of a three-day National Summit on Correctional Reforms in Nigeria, noted the gesture was borne out of need to decongest the facilities and also introduce lasting reforms.
The ongoing construction of 3,000 capacities custodial centre according to the AGF would also help in addressing inadequacies of the country’s correctional facilities.
According to the minister, the new maximum security custodial centres are located in Karshi, Abuja and in Janguza, Kano State.
The AGF said: “This event is the very next phase of our strategic efforts for the Nigerian Correctional Service Reform and decongestion of Nigerian Correctional Centres.
“On assumption of office, the President Muhammadu Buhari led Administration, alarmed over the deplorable state of Correctional Centres nationwide, directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to put in place urgent measures to speedily decongest the Centres.
“Under the authority of the directives of Mr. President, I inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion in 2017 to drive the identified measures to fast-track the decongestion and reform of the Nigerian Correctional Centres,”
While giving more insight into the Committee’s effort, the AGF said in the course of carrying out the assignment, they visited and appraised about thirty-nine (39) Correctional Centres in eighteen (18) States.
He added: “A total number of Three Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twenty-Four (3,924), have so far, been released during these visits via payment of fines for convicts for minor offences with the option of fine who are unable to pay the fines, general review of peculiar cases and advocacy overtures to relevant authorities.
“The payments were made possible through the financial assistance of the office of the HAGF, state Governments, religious bodies and NGOs.
The Committee has also initiated the upgrading of the libraries in Custodial Centres with the aim of aiding the re-orientation of inmates.
Malami who lauded the on-going collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Justice, Relevant Justice stakeholders and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also praised the United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights and the EU-ROLAC ‘for their support.
In a goodwill message, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola stated that proper planning for reforms of the service should start with the establishment of the “percentage of the Nigerian society that must be incarcerated” because according to him, Correctional Centers are the end of criminal justice.
Aregbesola further submitted that for reforms to be effective, “convicts are expected to come in broken and come out whole” and also able to easily return to society.
He then enjoined the private sector and individuals without criminal records to partner in empowering inmates with necessary skills, saying government alone cannot handle the challenge,
At the occasion, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion and Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Bello, listed the speedy passage of the Nigerian Correctional Services Bill by the National Assembly and the subsequent signing into law of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari as a major achievement of the Committee.