The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has said that his office would continue to fine-tune the roadmap and vigorously implement a comprehensive action plan to ensure enduring achievements in reforming and decongesting correctional centres in the country.
Malami made this known during the flag-off of the 2020 Presidential Pardon and Clemency granted recently by President Muhammadu Buhari to convicts in Correctional/Custodial centres across the country held at Kuje Correctional Centre, Kuje, Abuja on Thursday 9th April,2020.
According to a press statement issued by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, the Special Assistant to the Minister on Media and Public Relations, the flag-off was part of the urgent measures taken by the Federal Government towards the speedy decongestion of Correctional/Custodial centres in the country in view of the COVID 19 Pandemic.
Malami who spoke on behalf of President Muhamadu Buhari recalled that Nigeria has succeeded in putting in place urgent measures to ensure speedy decongestion of the custodial centres towards the control of COVID19 Pandemic which he described as part of demonstration of President Muhamadu Buhari’s sincerity and commitment to decongest the
overcrowded Nigerian Correctional Centres.
He explained that the process of coming up with the list of beneficiaries commenced in 2018 sequel to President’s approval. The Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) was inaugurated on the 28th August, 2018 to advise the President in granting pardon/clemency to deserving inmates and ex-convicts in line with the provisions of section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
In carrying out the assignment, the Minister said that the Committee adopted the use of interviews, observations, consultation and relevant documents called for and received from each of the Correctional Centres in Nigeria. He explained that the Committee visited a number of Correctional Centres in the six geo-political zones of the country to interact and identify those eligible for Presidential Pardon/Clemency.
Malami stated that upon conclusion of the assignment, a report of the Committee, containing the list of beneficiaries considered and recommended for Pardon or Clemency was submitted for the information and necessary action by Mr. President.
“Out of the 176 persons interviewed, Presidential Pardon has been granted to 2 inmates. The President granted clemency to 39 inmates as recommended by the PACPM out of which 4 inmates are from Kuje Correctional Centre. In addition, the President has also graciously granted Pardon to 5 Ex-Convicts. My office will take necessary steps to publish the names of these beneficiaries in the Federal Gazette in line with extant laws and regulations,” he disclosed.
The Minister said that in furtherance to the efforts to put COVID19 under control, the President requested appropriate authorities to embark on a visit to all Correctional/Custodial centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates.
“During the visit, there should be conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent a substantial number of years in custody especially those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody,” he said emphasizing that the President has requested that particular attention should be on the aged (especially those with terminal health issues), low risk offenders as well as the payment of fines for convicts of lesser offences with option of fines, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.
Malami warned all the beneficiaries of the Presidential Pardon and Clemency to desist from crime and criminality and be of good behaviour. “You must rewrite your individual life stories. You must rebuild broken walls in your dignity by diligently using the experience and various empowerments and trainings received while in custody positively to better your lots to the fullest,” he urged.
The Minister also urged the communities and general public to open their hands of fellowship in receiving the beneficiaries and ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society without any form of stigmatization or discrimination.
“I have confidence in their selection process, and if the President has pardoned them, you too can forgive them. I urge well-meaning Nigerians to do something positive to better their lots and livelihood including offering them jobs. It is expected that proper reintegration will strengthen their individual resolve to live in line with acceptable social norms and values”.
He reiterated the need to identify new measures to consciously reduce the number of inmates in Nigerian custodial centres beyond the control of COVID 19 scourges.
“We must primarily look into the cases of persons awaiting trial and individuals convicted of minor offences for which fines were the penalty. It is particularly worrisome that about 70% of the inmates in Nigerian prisons are persons awaiting trial and canvassed for the use of non-custodial measures in line with the provisions of the ACJA, 2015 and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.