Federal Government Set To Implement The Correctional Service Act, 2019
In order to ensure compliance with International Human Rights standards and good correctional practices, the Federal Government has expressed its readiness to implement the Correctional Service Act 2019.
The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF), Abubakar Malami SAN made the statement during the press briefing on the Effective Implementation of the Correctional Service Act, 2019, in Abuja on Tuesday November 19, 2019.
The press briefing is a prelude to a three-day strategic National Sensitization Workshop on the Implementation of the Correctional Service Act, 2019 scheduled to hold from 25th to 27th November, 2019.
He said that the Theme “Towards Effective Implementation of the Correctional Service Act, 2019’’, is to sensitise stakeholders especially the Justice Sector Institutions on the provisions of the Act particularly the provisions regarding non-custodial services which is newly introduced.
According to him, the Workshop will provide a veritable platform for the overview and comparative analysis of Correctional Service Act, 2019. He added that it will also engage participants to work together towards the development of a strategic Action Plan to support the deployment of non-custodial services as provided under the Act.
The Act will also enhance the focus on corrections and promotion of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders and establish institutional, systemic and sustainable mechanisms to address the high number of persons awaiting trial.
Enumerating on the achievements of the Committee so far, Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari on August 14th, 2019, signed the Correctional Service Bill, into Law.
This brought about the much needed legislative backbone for the comprehensive implementation of the national policies and strategies for prisons decongestion in Nigeria. “The plan will comprise of short, medium- and long-term measures that will create the requisite social awareness of the non-custodial services”, he explained.
Describing the passage of the Act as a major turning point in Prisons Reform and Justice Sector delivery in Nigeria, the HAGF said the Act has some innovative provisions which addressed some major issues that have been of concern to stakeholders in the Justice sector.
Malami explained that, the Committee has since its inauguration visited and appraised about thirty-four (34) prisons in sixteen (16) states and that total number of Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty-Eight (3,768), have been released viapayment of fines for convicts for minor offences with the option of fine who are unable to pay the fines, general review of peculiar cases and advocacy overtures to relevant authorities.
He stated that the Committee had written letters of appeal to several State Government Executives to act on some special cases encountered during the visits to various prisons in some states as well as to exercise their powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death.
He added that the committee has also made recommendations to the relevant authorities for the renovation/construction of prison facilities.
“The Committee conducts the review of cases of inmates awaiting trial for upwards of five (5) years, and of inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy with relevant authorities and looks into cases of condemned convicts on death row for over ten (10) years with the view to getting relevant authorities to commute the sentences to life imprisonment” Malami reiterated .
Speaking earlier, the Chief Judge, FCT High Court /Chairman, Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion of Prisons, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, said a lot of prisons outlets had been visited and decisions were taken in term of release. He challenged state Chief Judges to ensure speedy trials of inmates. He noted that the change of name from prison service to correctional has demonstrated government actions.
In reference to HAGF briefing, he said, the Committee had visited thirty-four (34) prisons in sixteen (16) states. He explained further that they have carried out prison’s inspection exercises wherein a number of facilities were discovered to be in dire need of urgent rehabilitation and made recommendations as a matter of urgency to the relevant authorities for the renovation/construction of prison facilities.
Justice Bello explained that, the new Act, would not tolerate the situation whereby inmates are kept in inadequate facilities while adding that, the Correctional Officers have the right to reject a suspect brought with health challenge.
He therefore called on the Media to support the Government and the Judiciary to enlighten the general public on the need to implement the Act.
Also present at the event were members of the Committee, Directors of the Ministry and the Media.