The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami, SAN, has said that awaiting trial inmates in the Nigerian Prisons represent 70 percent of the prisons population in the country.
Malami, who said this in 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 our judicial system.
He said the committee will in addition to payment of fines also conduct a review of cases of inmates awaiting trials for more than five years in the select priority prisons.
The AGF said, “it was distressing to note that many of the released inmates were aged between 18 to 25 and were convicted of crimes including those of stealing onions, stealing mobile set or even 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
“Indeed, it has already become starky 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 is working towards 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.”
The Chairman of the Committee and Chief judge of the Federal Capital High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, also said some inmates with minor offences who have spent more than five years will be released.