PRESS BRIEFING BY THE CHAIRMAN, OF THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMITTEE ON CORRECTIONAL SERVICE REFORM AND DECONGESTION ON THE ACHIEVEMNETSOF THE COMMITTEE FROM INCEPTION TILL DATE
7th July 2018
1.My passion for the reform and decongestion of correctional/custodial centres prior to my appointment……..
2.In October 2017, I was appointed the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion( now ‘Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion) by the HAGF.
3.The Committee’s focus is to initiate sustainable strategies to fast track the decongestion of correctional centres nationwide. since its inauguration we visited and appraised about thirty-nine (39) prisons in eighteen (18) states.
4.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 Committee in collaboration with the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, State Executives and Other relevant stakeholders have been able to further decongestion the correctional centres. In all about 7.713 inmates have bn released.
5.In the month of March, 2020, the Committee in collaboration with the FMOJ held a retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state and together with relevant stakeholders we reviewed the ’first draft’ of the proposed Sentencing Guidelines incorporating Non-Custodial Measures for the effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
Let me also mention that I had initiated the upgrading of the libraries in Custodial centres with the aim of aiding the re-orientation of inmates and during our visit to the Uyo correctional centre, we kick-started the project with the donation of carefully selected books to the Akwa Ibom state Command.
CRUCIAL HIGHLIGHTS OF VISITS
6.DELTA STATE – After the review of cases of inmates, I observed that there were a high number of inmates with psychosis and in light of this, recommended the establishment of psychiatric clinics and employment of psychotherapists across the custodial centres nationwide.
7.EDO STATE- On the discovery of an inmate who was charged and detained for ‘intent to steal’ I informed all Judicial and prosecuting officers to bring an end to the ridiculous practice of charging suspects with nonexistent offences.
8.LAGOS STATE- The Correctional officers were commended for exhibiting a cordial relationship with inmates and having a sanitized environment which is notably profitable to the inmates mental health. On the discovery of a number of inmates and in particular one who had advanced himself whilst incarcerated educationally and was infact a ‘P.HD’ student at the time of visit, the Committee made a recommendation to Mr. President for the consideration of such inmates for presidential pardon which will see them making useful impact in the society upon release.
9.ENUGU STATE- The release of one of the two condemned female Convicts was a highly emotional time during the visit. This very intelligent Lady was said to be the best graduating student in her class( enrolled in the open University programme in the centre) who was unfortunately lured into crime as a teen by her street wise then boyfriend.
10.ANAMBRA STATE- The case of a young boy who was so desirous of furthering his education and was lured into stealing from his neighbor in order to offset his exam fees was reviewed and the State Government upon his release pledged to immediately take up his educational responsibilities.
11.OGUN STATE- A particular woman who had completed her 5 year sentence but was still incarcerated for her inability to pay the One million naira compensation sum was released and the Committee recommended that rather than incarcerating an offender solely for inability to pay compensation, a competent court of jurisdiction should decide on a payment plan or sentence in lieu of compensation.
12.RIVERS STATE- As at the time of visit, majority of the condemned convicts were found to be from other states and the Committee invited the appropriate State Executives to take the required steps to consider them for clemency, commuting their sentences to life or transfer to their proper jurisdictions.
13.IMO STATE- The Correctional Command was adviced to strengthen its communication channel with the office of the State A.-G as there were cases of ATI’s who had been remanded for over 10 years without trial or even being formally charged. Judicial officers were equally advised to ensure that a return date is given for every charge whether the inmate is remanded during trial or not.
14.NEW KEFFI C.C- In other to enhance the focus on corrections and promotion of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as provided by the NCSA, 2019, the Committee upgraded the Skill Acquisition centre as a pilot project. At the launch of the project, it was quite heart-warming to see that the inmates were utilizing the opportunities provided satisfactorily, infact I was presented with a well fitted, comfortable and superbly crafted pair of shoes which can easily pass as ‘designer shoes’.
15. During our visits to the correctional centres nationwide, we have also carried out inspection exercises wherein 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 (JIGAWA & KATSINA STATE).
16. Generally, the Committee after the review of cases of inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy and condemned convicts on death row for over ten (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 as well as to exercise their powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death.
17.I interact with the Medical officers in charge of the clinics during inspection usually with a view of detecting the critically ill, inmates with life threatening ailments who cannot access adequate treatment to be released or recommended for release.
18 Inmates who are lucky to be released are extensively counseled and in most cases are given transportation stipends to enable them return to their families. Sometimes we have requested officers to get them home.
19. PENDING CRUCIAL ACTIVITIES FOR 2020/2021
A)Convening of a Roundtable on the second draft of the proposed uniform Sentencing Guidelines incorporating Non-Custodial measures for the effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
😎 Preparation and submission of a comprehensive Report/Recommendations to Mr. President
20.I urge all stakeholders in the Justice sector not to relent from collaborating and supporting the Committee in ensuring that we ultimately deliver on my mandate.
21. thank you all for your attention.
HON. JUSTICE ISHAQ U. BELLO CHIEF JUDGE OF THE FCT HIGH COURTS