By Saminu Ibrahim
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has said his office would continue to fine-tune the roadmap and vigorously implement comprehensive action plan to ensure enduring achievements in reforming and decongesting correctional centres in the country.
This is contained in a statement by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations Office of the Attorney-Generalof the Federation and Minister of Justice issued to newsmen in Abuja on Thursday 9th April, 2020.
Malami made this known at the flag-off the 2020 Presidential Pardonand Clemency granted recently by President Muhammadu Buhari toconvicts in Correctional/custodial centres across the country.
Held at Kuje Correctional Centre, Kuje, Abuja on Thursday 9th April, 2020 the flag-off was part of the urgent measures taken by the Federal Government towards the speedy decongestion of correctional/custodialcentres in the country in view of the COVID – 19 Pandemic.
Malami who spoke on behalf of President Muhamadu Buhari recalled that Nigeria has succeeded in putting in place urgent measures to ensurespeedy decongestion of the custodial centres towards the control of COVID -19 Pandemic which he described as part of demonstration of President Muhamadu Buhari’s sincerity and commitment to decongest theovercrowded Nigerian Correctional Centres.
He explained that the process of coming up with the list of beneficiaries commenced in 2018 when sequel to Mr. President’s approval, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy(PACPM) was inaugurated on the 28th August, 2018 to advise Mr.President in granting pardon/clemency to deserving inmates andex-convicts in line with the provisions of section 175 of theConstitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
In carrying out the assignment, the Minister said that the Committee adopted the use of interviews, observations, consultation and relevantdocuments called for and received from each of the CorrectionalCentres in Nigeria.
He said that the Committee visited a number of Correctional Centres in the six geo-political zones of the country to interact and identify those eligible for Presidential Pardon/Clemency.
Malami said that upon conclusion of the assignment, a report of theCommittee, containing the list of beneficiaries considered and recommended for Pardon or Clemency was submitted for the information and necessary action by Mr. President.
“Out of the 176 persons interviewed, Presidential Pardon has been granted to 2 inmates. Mr. President granted clemency to 39 inmates as recommended by the PACPM out of which 4 inmates are from Kuje Correctional Centre. In addition, Mr. President has also graciously granted Pardon to 5 Ex – Convicts. My office will take necessary stepsto publish the names of these beneficiaries in the Federal Gazette inline with extant laws and Regulations,” he said.
The Minister said that in furtherance to the efforts to put COVID -19 under control, Mr. President requested appropriate authorities to embark on a visit to all correctional/custodial centres within the irrespective States to identify and release deserving inmates.
“During the visit, there should be conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent a substantial number of years in custody especially those with no sufficient legal basis to remain incustody,” he said emphasizing that Mr. President has requested that particular attention should be on the aged (especially those with terminal health issues), low risk offenders as well as the payment offines for convicts of lesser offences with option of fines, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.
Malami warned all the beneficiaries of the Presidential Pardon and Clemency to desist from crime and criminality and be of good behaviour. “You must rewrite your individual life stories. You must rebuild broken walls in your dignity by diligently using the experience and various empowerments and trainings received while incustody positively to better your lots to the fullest,” he urged.
The Minister also urged the communities and general public to open their hands of fellowship in receiving the beneficiaries and ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society without any formof stigmatization or discrimination.
“I have confidence in their selection process, and if Mr. President has pardoned them, you too can forgive them. I urge well-meaning Nigerian to do something positive to better their lots and livelihood including offering them jobs. It is expected that proper reintegration will strengthen their individual resolve to live in line with acceptable social norms and values”.
He reiterated the need to identify new measures to consciously reducethe number of inmates in Nigerian custodial centres beyond the controlof COVID – 19 scourges.
“We must primarily look into the cases of persons awaiting trial and individuals convicted of minor offences for which fines were thepenalty. It is particularly worrisome that about 70% of the inmates in Nigerian prisons are persons awaiting trial and canvassed for the use of non-custodial measures in line with the provisions of the ACJA, 2015 and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019″ he stated.