the ravaging pandemic known as Coronavirus that is said to have killed millions
of people in the world as a result of its contagious nature, the chief justice
of Nigeria (CJN), justice Tanko Mohammed had on Friday ordered the chief judges in the respectful
36 states and it’s federal capital territory to take urgent steps toward
ensuring speedy trials in criminal cases and prison decongestion in various
correctional centres in the federation.
made this disclosure in his capacity as the Chairman of the National Judicial
Council and gave this directive in a memo with reference number,
NJC/CIR/HOC/II/662, and dated May 15, 2020.
The memo addressed to the Chief Judges of the various states and the FCT was posted
on the NJC’s website on Friday.
his directive was in line with the call by the United Nations on countries of
the world “to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates since
physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically
impossible” during the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
expressed worry over the overwhelming proportion of awaiting trial inmates in
the various prisons across the country.
noted that of the 74,127 persons held in the prisons, 52,226 of them were
stated, “From available records, the inmates’ population at various custodial
centres across the country presently stand at about 74,127 out of which 52,226
are Awaiting Trial Persons.
of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their
capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of
the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances,
hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.”
therefore, asked the Chief Judges “to embark on an immediate visit to all
custodial/correctional centres within your respective states to identify and
release deserving inmates, where that has not been done already.”
urged them to consider releasing inmates who had spent six years or more
awaiting trial in prison.
urged the Chief Judges to consider discharging awaiting trial persons who had
no confirmed criminal cases against them, the aged, and terminally ill.
stated, “During the requested visit, the Chief Judges are enjoined to consider
conditional or unconditional release of Awaiting Trial Persons who have spent
six years or more in custody.
who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and terminally
ill may be discharged.
expected that particular attention should be on the aged, those with health
issues, low-risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in
custody, inmates convicted for minor offences with or without an option of fines
and inmates who have less than three years term left to serve having served a
substantial term of their service for offences that attract 5 years and above.
“Payment of fines maybe
made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with an option of fine, who
are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.