The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has harped on the need of implementing non-custodial sentencing in the criminal justice system.
Malami, who said this at Birnin-Kebbi Prisons during the visit of the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion, said the country cannot continue to overlook the need for non-custodial measures in the judicial system.
“Indeed, it has already become stark clear from deliberations during the previous prison visit that we as a nation cannot continue to overlook the need for non-custodial measures.
“Such measures, including community service orders and probation, are clearly provided for in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and it is heartwarming to note that Kebbi State Justice Reform team is working towards the adoption of the Act in the state.
”Now, given that awaiting trial inmates represent 70 percent of our prisons population, of course any discussion on prison decongestion that does not include working on awaiting trial persons would be futile,” he stated.
The AGF said, “It is distressing to note that many of the released inmates were aged between 18 – 25 and were convicted of crimes including those of stealing onions to stealing mobile/television sets.
“Despite some fines being as low as between N4,000 and N20,000, these young men could not afford to pay same and therefore languished in prison where they mixed with violent offenders
“I am pleased to announce that the committee will in addition to ensuring the payment of fines also conduct a review of cases of inmates awaiting trial for more than five years in the select priority prisons”.
The Chairman of the Committee and Chief Judge of the Federal Capital High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, advised magistrates to be careful with the kind of remand orders they issued.
“As head of courts, we must know what those under us are doing because a lot of inmates in prisons have no reason being there. We must make Nigeria’s judiciary one of the best in the world,” he said.