By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Controller General of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), Jafa’aru Ahmed has revealed that the country now has 2,742 inmates on death row.
He expressed optimism that the approving authorities are working to either approve their execution or to commute them to life sentence.
Jafa’aru, made the revelation yesterday in Abuja, at a news conference to explain major provisions of the Nigeria Correctional Service Act which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 31, 2019.
He noted that the Nigeria Correctional Service Act was more than a mere change of nomenclature lamented that there are at present 13 lunatics in its Correctional facility in Enugu, adding that with the new law, the service now has the power to reject mentally unstable suspects.
“As of Monday, September 2, the service had 2,742 inmates on death row. We are compiling their list and I am sure a good number of them have exhausted their appeal and are waiting for the appropriate authority to either approve their execution or commute them to life sentence. The law also talks about rejection of lunatics. Right now, we have 13 lunatics in our Enugu facility”.
The CG said the new bill also has provision for the building of new facilities to cater for female inmates as opposed to the present situation where a section of a given facility is carved out to serve as women wing.
Speaking on ways to control overcrowding, the Correctional Service boas said “the new Act now provides a statutory procedure for rejecting inmates on account of lack of space. Sect. 12 (4) states; where the Custodial Centre has exceeded its capacity, the State Controller shall within a period not exceeding one week, notify the: Chief Judge of the State; the Attorney General of the State; Prerogative of Mercy Committee; State Criminal Justice Committee; and any other relevant body.
“Sub-section (7) states; upon receipt of the notification referred to in subsection (4), the notified body shall, within a period not exceeding three months, take necessary steps to decongest the facility if it must accept more inmates.
Then subsection (8), specifically empowers the State Controller of Correctional Service in conjunction with the officer in-charge of the facility, to reject more intake of inmates where it is apparent that the Correctional Centre in question is filled to capacity.
“The new Act has brought succour and hope to inmates on death row. Previously, this category of inmates live under the suspense and mental torture of death which the appropriate authorities would neither sign nor easily commute to life imprisonment. Section 12 subsection 2 (c) of the NCS Act now provides that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.
“To further humanize incarceration, the NCS Act, 2019 now forbids the use of correctional facilities for indiscriminate dumping of persons without due regard to their state of health or age. Section 13 subsection (3) states; A Superintendent shall refuse to admit persons brought in:
with severe bodily injury; Who is: mentally unstable, or in an unconscious state of mind, or underage.
“The Correctional Service shall provide opportunities for education, training in vocations as well as training in modern farming techniques and animal husbandry for inmates.”