By Omeiza Ajayi
The Federal Government has asked sub-national entities in the country to hasten measures to decongest the custodial centres especially with regards to summoning the political will to do the needful on death row convicts.
Disclosing that Nigeria now has 3,008 condemned criminals consisting of 2,952 males and 56 females, the federal government also urged states to build holding centres for awaiting trial suspects to decongest custodial facilities.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, gave the charge on Friday at the commissioning of the Osun State Command office complex of the Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS, Osogbo.
The minister’s charge was contained in a statement by his Media Adviser, Sola Fasure issued Friday in Abuja.
Urging State Governors to summon the will and do the needful on death row convicts, the minister said; “There are at present, 3, 008 condemned criminals waiting for their date with the executioners in our meagre custodial facilities. This consists of 2,952 males and 56 females. In cases where appeal has been exhausted and the convicts are not mounting any challenge to their conviction, the state should go ahead, one, to do the needful and bring closure to their cases; two, set some others free on compassionate ground, especially those who have grown old on account of the long time they have been in custody, those who are terminally ill and those who have been reformed and demonstrated exceptionally good behaviour; and three, commute others sentences to life or a specific terms in jail. This can be done by putting in place a system of amnesty and prerogative of mercy that will review all cases of convicts on death row periodically”.
Aregbesola in his address titled “Unmatched Infrastructure Development” stated that “the entire national custodial facilities have a maximum capacity for 57,278 inmates, adding however that by the last count earlier in the week, there was a total population of 68,747 inmates, made up of 67,422 males and 1,325 females.
“We have therefore shot above the capacity by 18 per cent.”
He disclosed that 50,992 inmates, representing 74 per cent of the total population of inmates in the custodial centres are awaiting trial while only 17,755 inmates which is 26 per cent are actual convicts.
According to him, this brings to the fore the reality of the limitations in the effective management of the criminal justice administration and therefore urged state governments to work with the federal government in addressing this challenge as an overwhelming majority of inmates in custody are state offenders being tried by their respective State Governments.
Aregbesola also spoke on the various measures undertaken by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari aimed at decongesting custodial facilities and asked State Governments to “accelerate the wheel of justice as a lot of inmates have been in custody for a period longer than the maximum sentence their alleged offences carry. This fundamentally is a miscarriage of justice”.
“Share in the burden of decongesting custodial facilities by building modern holding centres, setting aside a sum for the maintenance of inmates, while the service will provide the personnel to man and run the facilities efficiently”, he added.
The minister commended the Controller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa as well as Officers and men of the NCoS for their service in actualizing the mandate of keeping convicts and awaiting trial suspects in safe and legal custody and reforming convicts to be better citizens.
The Minister thanked President Buhari for his generous disposition towards the Ministry of Interior and the four agencies under it while appreciating the Government and people of Osun state for freely donating the land and various assistance to the NCOS.
The Governor of the State, represented by the Secretary to the Government, Prince Oyebamiji Oluwole, commended the Federal Government and the NCoS for providing a conducive environment for the staff adding that it will encourage and boost staff morale in effective service delivery, stating the State’s government’s support to the NCoS.
On his part, Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, in his goodwill message, commended Ogbeni Aregbesola for his passion for infrastructural development in the state, and urged him not to relent in his efforts.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Controller General of NCoS, Haliru Nababa, who expressed the service’s appreciation to members of the National Assembly for their commitment to equipping the service for optimal performance, assured that the NCoS will justify the Federal Government’s gesture.
Other dignitaries at the event included the Ataoja of Osogbo, the representative of the Ooni of Ife, the Senator representing Osun Central, Senator Surajudeen Ajibola Bashiru, the Commissioner of Police in Osun state, leaders and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun, market women and others.