The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has called for immediate decongestion of all custodial centres in the country to prevent the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from finding its way into any of the prisons.
A statement by Mohammed Manga, the Director (Press & Public Relations) of the Interior ministry, said Aregbesola made the call during an emergency meeting held in his office in Abuja on how to manage the Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that the meeting was conveyed in response to the outcome of the Presidential Task Force meeting on COVID-19, noting that the safety of inmates, staff of the Nigeria Correctional Service and all Nigerians was of great concern to the government.
The minister emphasised that the nation was in an extraordinary situation which required all hands to be on deck in order to ensure that the pandemic does not go into any of the custodian centres.
Aregbesola therefore, called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, states Chief Judges, the governors and other stakeholders in the justice sector to immediately identify measures to be taken for quick decongestion of the custodial centres across the country as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the Centres.
According to him, the number of those in the custodial centres across the country called for quick response, particularly in the present situation, as they are more vulnerable to infection, adding that the situation is further compounded by the huge number of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).
The ATPs accounts for over 70% of the national inmates’ population in the nation’s holding facilities.
He called for an urgent need to find a way of trying the cases of the ATPs in the country to overcome the challenge of space in the custodial centres.
Earlier in his remarks, the Controller General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed, said the country currently has a total of 244 custodial centres, 139 of which are main custodial centres and 85 as satellite centres with a total of 74,127 inmates, among which 1,450 are female, 21, 901 convicted and 52,226 ATPs.
The Controller General added that overcrowded facilities posed a serious threat to the inmates at this time of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, if adequate steps were not taken to address the situation.
Also in his remarks, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami called for proper profiling of all inmates in the various facilities across the country with a view to having a Joint arrangement with the governors and states’ chief judges for speedy trial of ATPs.