By Olalekan Awojodu
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN on Monday said the Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice will accelerate decongestion of Correctional Centres nationwide.
The Minister made the remark at the signing of the Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts (Custodial and Non – Custodial Sentencing) Practice Directions, 2020.
According to the minister, introduction of non-custodial sentences by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and more recently, the provision of a clear legislative and institutional framework for their implementation by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 were efforts by the Federal Government aimed at addressing the colossal problem of congestion in correctional facilities in Nigeria.
“The provision for non-custodial sentences such as probation, community service, restitution, compensation and suspended sentence by the ACJA 2015, was one of the main innovations of the Act”, he said.
The Minister said following the harmonization of the inputs of the stakeholders at the National Workshop, a Technical Working Committee put in place by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion subsequently developed a Draft FCT Courts (Non-Custodial Sentence) Practice Directions, 2020.
Also at the ceremony, the Chief Judge of the High Court of the FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello, described the signing as a milestone achievement, saying lack of it has led to misconception in the past.
“Court was in most cases accused of being unduly lenient or playing to the gallery by imposing severe punishment upon conviction, especially in cases of public interest.
“The proposed guidelines will therefore provide a system for handling down uniform or consistent sentences for similar crimes where it is strictly followed.
“It has been developed and remodeled to assist judges decide on how to eliminate confusion and in determining proper punishment for convicts,”
Bello added that another benefit is that sentences will become fairly predictable, saying jurisdiction will be able to use that information to forecast and manage correctional resources.