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Published On: Wed, Jul 8th, 2020

Coronavirus: Reps adjourn plenary as over 50 lawmakers test positive

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  • FG frees 3,789 inmates to curb virus spread

By Christiana Ekpa and Vivian Okejeme, Abuja

The House of Representatives has adjourned plenary till next week Tuesday following the result of COVID 19 test done on members which show that over 50 lawmakers tested positive for the virus.
This is just as the Federal Government yesterday freed 3,789 inmates across Correctional Service Centers in the country to curb the spread of the virus among inmates.
The House had in its resolution resolved to sit once a week as a result of the spread of the deadly virus.
Spokesman of the House, Rep. Benjamin Kalu had earlier refuted claims that some members in the House had tested positive for the virus.
However, reports on tests conducted on lawmakers in the National Assembly has not been made open to the public but a source among the Lawmakers who pleaded anonymity told newsmen that about 50 of his colleagues are seriously down with Coronavirus.
He said, “ you people should do anything possible to protect yourselves oh, Coronavirus is right here even in the Chamber, about 50 or more than 50 of our colleagues are having it, I mean there down with it already” he stressed.
Before announcing adjournment at plenary, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had called for an executive session which may be unconnected with the need to adjourn plenary for fear of further spread of the virus
Further checks revealed that a huge number of the lawmakers in both Chambers have tested positive to COVID-19 but refused make it known to the public.
Our reporter also observed that there are no wash soaps and water at the entrance of the Assembly complex even in the rest rooms which are only places where people working at the complex can wash their hands.
Also, the Automatic Sanitizer dispensers at the entrance of the Assembly have been so empty as they worked for just three weeks at the early stage of the virus.
All efforts to get the spokesperson of the House, Hon. Kalu to speak on the allegation was not successful as his line was not reachable and he did not reply to the massage sent to him as of the time of press.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has announced that a total 3,789 inmates have been released from the Nigeria Correctional Service Centres across the country since the outbreak of Corona Virus to curb the spread of the virus among inmates.
This was made known by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubaka Malami, SAN, at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the achievement of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, since it was inaugurated in October 2017, the AGF said the measure was taken to reduce risk of inmates contracting the virus.
Malami hinted that the Committee, since its inauguration, has visited and appraised about 39 prisons in 18 states and has released a total of 7,713.
He noted the inadequacy of Nigeria’s correctional facilities, which are currently operating at more than 150% of their capacity.
Further in his speech, he informed that, there is an ongoing construction of 3000-capacity maximum security custodial centres in Karshi, Abuja and in Janguza, Kano State.
‘’Undoubtedly, the COVID19 pandemic has posed its own peculiar challenges in light of the worrisome and dilapidated state of our correctional centres nationwide. Without belabouring the facts, it is pertinent to note the inadequacy of our correctional facilities, which are currently operating at more than 150% of their capacity.
‘’As part of measures to decongest the custodial centres nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers posed to the centres, the HAGF’s office, the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with Presidential Committee on Correctional Service and Decongestion, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy and State Executives and Other relevant stakeholders,were galvanised to develop measures to overcome the challenges.
‘’The initiatives adopted we have been able to so far led to the release of about 3,789 inmates while simultaneously reducing the instances of unnecessary test and we intend to sustain this momentum,’’ Malami stated.
The Chairman of the committee and Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, during the visits to the correctional centres nationwide, the committee carried out inspection exercises where a number of facilities were discovered to be in dire need of urgent rehabilitation and we made recommendations as a matter of urgency to the relevant authorities for the renovation/construction of these facilities.
Bello submitted that after a review of cases of inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy and condemned convicts on death row for over 10 years, has written and keeps writing letters of appeal to several State Government Executives to act on some special cases encountered during the visits to some states.
The letters, according to him, requested the state government to exercise their powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death.

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