The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, says digitalization such as the installation of Virtual Automated Case Management System will fast track prison decongestion in Nigeria.
Malami said this on Tuesday, in Abuja while briefing newsmen on the upcoming National Workshop on `effective implementation of provisions of the correctional service act, 2019.
“The system will integrate with the existing Prisons Information Management System (PIMS) with the ultimate aim of effecting a holistic improvement of the efficiency of the entire Justice Sector’’.
He said that on assumption of office President Muhammadu Buhari was alarmed over the deplorable state of prisons nationwide.
He said that Buhari noted that the state of the prisons was a national disaster and that many of the prisons are about 90 per cent overcrowded and therefore stressed the need to put in place urgent measures to speedily decongest the prisons.
He said he constituted a Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion Chaired by the Chief Judge, High Court of the FCT, Justice Ishaq Bello to fast-track the reform.
“The Committee has since its inauguration visited and appraised about 34 prisons in sixteen 16 states and released about 3,768 prisoners.
`They were released via payment of fines for minor offences for minors who are unable to pay the fines, through general review of peculiar cases and advocacy overtures to relevant authorities.
“The committee has written letters of appeal to several State Government Executives to act on some special cases encountered through the powers of clemency in deserving cases or commute to life sentence those condemned to death’’.
He said the committee during its visits, also conducts the review of cases of inmates awaiting trial for upwards of years and inmates eligible for Prerogative of Mercy with relevant authorities.
“They also looked into cases of condemned convicts on death row for over 10 years with the view to getting relevant authorities to commute the sentences to life imprisonment’’.
The Minister said that the signing into law the Correctional Service Act, 2019 was a major turning point in Prisons Reform and Justice Sector delivery in Nigeria.
“This marks another milestone in our national Strategies deployed towards urgently decongesting the prisons.
“The act has some innovative provisions which addressed some major issues that have been of concern to stakeholders in the Justice sector.
“It will ensure compliance with international human rights standards and good correctional practices and to provide an enabling platform for the implementation of non-custodial measures.
He said that the establishment of a standard Skill Acquisition Centre at Keffi Correctional Centre will be replicated in Correctional Centres across the Federation.
“It is my hope that in no distant time, the Prisons, now Correctional Service Centres will be fully and systematically decongested.
“This will enhance the focus on corrections and promotion of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as provided by the Act.
He said the act will enhance the focus on corrections and promotion of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
“And to establish institutional, systemic and sustainable mechanisms to address the high number of persons awaiting trial.
Earlier, Justice Bello, in his remarks said that the purpose of the National Workshop is to sensitise stakeholders especially.
“The workshop will sensitise the Justice Sector Institutions on the provisions of the Act particularly the provisions regarding non-custodial services which is newly introduced.
According to Bello, `the Workshop will provide a veritable platform for the overview and comparative analysis of Correctional Service Act, 2019.
“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. (NAN)