A Non-Governmental organization, Prison Inmate Development Initiative (PIDI-Nigeria) has urged state governors to prevail on the comptrollers of correctional centres within their reach to exercise their powers under the Correctional Service Act 2019, section 12 (8) to decongest the centres so as to curb the spread of Coronavirus.
The Executive Director of the NGO, Mr. Mbami Iliya Sabka, stated this while reacting to recent directives by the federal government that state governments should release 70 percent of all awaiting trial inmates under the custody of correctional centres in their various states.
Speaking today in Bauchi while describing the directive as a welcome development, Sabka noted that reports indicated that the awaiting trial inmates accounts for 70 percent of the detainees in Nigeria’s correctional centres.
“Following the directive, PIDI-Nigeria is compelled to call on all state Controllers of Nigeria Correctional Centres to exercise their powers as enshrined in the correctional act, section 12 (8) to decongest the facilities by notifying the State Attorney General (AG) to curtail any possibility of COVID-19 outbreak in such centres”, the Executive Director said.
“It was also reported that Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who gave the directive on behalf of the President said the move is to prevent the ravaging coronavirus from spreading into the correctional centres”. Sabka pointed out.
According to the rights group, “the law, in section 12(8) has already empowered the comtroller of correctional service to reject additional inmates above facility under their watch. So, we will be forced to seek redress in the court’s if the comptrollers who have been given the constitutional powers to do the needful failed to exercise such powers”.
According to the NGO, “for instance, proper audit had revealed that nearly, if not, more than half of Bauchi Correctional Center’s (prison) population ought not to be in prison in the first place and therefore, ought to be released”.
The Executive Director, who spoke with DAILY POST, said about 75 per cent of Bauchi Correctional facilities population are persons awaiting trial – for very petty or minor offences or even no offence at all often ended up in prison after they were arbitrarily arrested and maliciously charged simply for being unable to pay their way out of Police custody, and remanded in prison.
“Some may have been granted bail by a Magistrate’s Court but either they don’t know what to do or are unable to fulfill bail conditions, or can’t afford legal representation. Reports after reports every year by local and international organisations and governments revealed these facts, yet the problems persist”, he noted.
“At these perilous times when humanity faces the threat of extermination by this novel virus that has created a public health crisis, the impact can be mitigated in Nigeria by decongesting our correctional centres (prisons),” Mr. Sabka insisted.