The Attorney -General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami , SAN, has written to state governors on the need for speedy decongestion of custodial centres (prisons) in the country due to the COVID -19 pandemic .
A statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations , Office of the AGF, Umar Gwandu, said the letters were dated April 9, 2020, and entitled ‘ Urgent need for speedy decongestion of custodial centres’ .
Malami, in the letter, noted that from the available records, the inmate population at the various custodial centres across the country stood at 74, 127, out of which 52 ,226 inmates were awaiting trial persons .
The AGF expressed regret that most of the centres were housing inmates beyond their capacities .
According to him , the development poses a threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general.
The letter read , “ Mr President requests all executive governors to request their state chief judges to embark on visits to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective states to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already. ”
The attorney- general asked the judges to consider conditional or unconditional release of the ATPs , who had spent six years or more in custody , as well as those who had no confirmed criminal cases against them.
According to the minister , other inmates to be considered for pardon include the aged, those with terminal illnesses, low risk offenders, and those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody .
Also to be considered are convicts of minor offences with or without option of fines and those who have fewer than three years left to serve after serving substantial parts of their jail term for offences that attract five years and above .
Malami further noted that “ payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with option of fine ” .
The minister told the governors the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari ( retd. ), had approved that they set up their prerogative of mercy committees to recommend pardon or clemency in line with constitutional provisions.