Legal Defence and Assistance Project – LEDAP has called on all the state Governors to immediately commence the decongestion of the various correctional centers by releasing on parole and probation certain categories of inmates, especially those who have less than one year term to serve, those convicted for offences that have no element of violence or sex crime, the elderly and those with serious health challenges.
In a statement by the National Coordinator – LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, SAN, made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), the call is for Prisoners who have less than one year of their prison terms should be paroled in order to free the custody cells of the Correctional Services across the country to curb the spread of coronavirus in these facilities.
According to the Chairman. Obiagwu, SAN, “LEDAP also urges the Attorneys-General of the states and of the federation to exercise their powers under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Laws to discontinue cases of criminal defendants who are not facing charges with elements of violence or sex crimes, and to provide resources and protection to Magistrates to visit police stations in order to assess and release deserving suspects in police cells pursuant to the powers of the Magistrates under sections 33 and 34 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
“Sections 453 and 468 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and their equivalent in the states have authorized the court and the Attorney General to grant probation and parole of certain categories of convicted persons.
At a time like this when the world is facing the threat of Covid19 pandemic, and as the country battles to reduce the spread of the coronavirus through practices of social distancing and personal hygiene, it is imperative that the governments passionately consider the plight of the most vulnerable citizens who are most susceptible to the pandemic, especially thousands of those locked up in Correctional Service custody centers, police cells, and detention cells of EFCC, NDLEA, ICPC, DSS, and other law enforcement detention facilities. There is no way these detention places can maintain social distancing and sanitation in the situation of overcrowding.
“LEDAP notes that criminal defendants on awaiting trial custody in the Nigerian Correctional Services centers are more than 60% of the total inmates of those centers, and awaiting trial cells are over-crowded beyond the capacity of these custody facilities. LEDAP therefore calls of the Attorneys-General of the states to take immediate steps to discontinue cases of those held on awaiting trial for non-violence and non sex offences, as well as inmates charged with petty and minor offences, inmates with underlying medical health conditions and the elderly as an important way of reducing the congestion in the cells.
“Finally, LEDAP commends the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, for taking steps in the right direction to discontinue cases of over 500 criminal suspects in Lagos state, thereby setting a good example in the fight against Covid19. “