The controller general, Nigeria Correctional Service ( NCS), Ahmed Jafa’aru yesterday revealed that Nigeria now has 2,742 inmates on death row.
Jafa’aru made the revelation while briefing newsmen about the key provisions of the Nigeria Correctional Service Act which was recently assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “As of Monday, September 2, the service had 2,742 inmates on death row. We are compiling their list and I am sure a good number of them have exhausted their appeal and are waiting for the approving authority to either approve their execution or commute them to life sentence. The law also talks about rejection of lunatics. Right now, we have 13 lunatics in our Enugu facility.”
While stating that the new Act has brought succour and hope to inmates on death row the CG explained that previously, this category of inmates live under the suspense and mental torture of death which the appropriate authorities would neither sign nor easily commute to life imprisonment.
He said, “ Section 12 subsection 2 (c) of the NCS Act now provides that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without the execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.”
The CG who expressed optimism that the approving authorities are working to either approve their execution or to commute them to life sentence noted that the Nigeria Correctional Service Act was more than a mere change of nomenclature.
While also revealing that there are at present 13 lunatics in its Correctional facility in Enugu, the Nigeria Correctional Service boss said that with the new law, the service now has the power to reject mentally unstable suspects.
He said the new bill also has provision for the building of new facilities to cater for female inmates as opposed to the present situation where a section of a given facility is carved out to serve as women wing.
Speaking on overcrowding, he said the new Act now provides a statutory procedure for rejecting inmates on account of lack of space.
He said, “ Sect. 12 (4) of the Act states; where the Custodial Centre has exceeded its capacity, the State Controller shall within a period not exceeding one week, notify the: Chief Judge of the State; the Attorney General of the State; Prerogative of Mercy Committee; State Criminal Justice Committee; and any other relevant body.”
According to him, “To further humanize incarceration, the NCS Act, 2019 now forbids the use of correctional facilities for indiscriminate dumping of persons without due regard to their state of health or age. Section 13 subsection (3) states; ‘A Superintendent shall refuse to admit persons brought in: with severe bodily injury; Who is: mentally unstable, or in an unconscious state of mind, or underage.”
He said, “Subsection (5) of the Act has addressed the age long challenge of stigmatization as trained offenders who demonstrate high level of penitence can now be issued with a certificate by the chairman of the Board on the recommendation of the CGC. This enables him to engage and compete for social recognition without the toga of ‘ex-convict’.”
Recall that the Nigerian Correctional Service has repeatedly blamed state governors for the high number of condemned inmates in prisons across the country.
It said that the governors were unwilling to sign the death warrants for the execution of the inmates on death row in various prison formations , hence, the hike in the number
The NCS Controller General, Ahmed Jafa’aru has consistently said, “The problem of condemned prisoners is still a very big challenge to NPS and we have been appealing to the relevant authorities expecially to the state Chief Executives (governors).
“As you know, when someone gets to his last bus stop and is condemned to death and he has exhausted his appeal to the Supreme Court, the only opportunity he has to escape death is the governor commuting his death sentence to a term of imprisonment or sign the death warrant for this person to take his last breath.”