By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Justice, has concluded plans for a nationwide decongestion exercise in the Correctional Centres across the country.
It was also revealed that 3,751 inmates were released shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
This was made known by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, during a Virtual Interactive Session with Commissioners of Justice in the 36 States and Heads of Courts in the country.
The theme of the program is, ‘’ Implementing Amnesty and Decongestion for Juvenile Deprived of their Liberty during COVID-19 and Beyond ‘’.
During the interactive session organised by the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion (PCCSRD), the minister said all stakeholders must come together to achieve a desired purpose.
Malami said, ‘’ Considering the vulnerability and susceptibility of juveniles and children deprived of liberty in locked facilities, correctional centres, borstal homes, including those detained with their parents or caregivers, and those detained on national security grounds, to contracting the Corona virus, due to the congested environment they are detained in; the Ministry classifies this Second Phase of the said exercise to be very strategic in achieving Juvenile Justice Reform and attainment of Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
‘’I wish to underpin the importance of this intervention exercise which is aptly focused on juveniles, by stating its relevance to the effective implementation of some of the provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 especially section 35, that clearly stipulates provisions on juvenile offenders’’.
On his part, the Chairman of the PCCSRD and the Chief Judge ofbtge Federal Capital Territory High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, in his welcome address assured that
the Custodial and Non-Custodial Sentencing Practice Direction, 2020 will be signed into law in October.
According to the Chief Judge, the second phase of the Correctional Service Centres decongestion exercise will be a blueprint for the initiation of a longer and more sustainable system to reduce arbitrary incarceration of juvenile by adopting diversionary measure in the justice system in Nigeria
‘’Iam glad to inform you all that the said Sentencing Guideine will be signed by me and issued in October, 2020 as the Federal Capital Territory Courts (Custodial and Non-Custodial Sentencing) Practice Direction, 2020.
‘’It is my belief, that the said practice direction, will go a long way in addressing some of the concerns of juvenile inmates which aligns with international standards, as contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Child Rights Act, 2003 that promotes the adoption of non-custodial measures, while reinforcing detention as an option of last resort for juvenile offenders,’’ he concluded.