Malami: Decentralisation of Correctional Services will Accelerate Decongestion

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Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN)

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The federal government yesterday said that the proposed decentralisation of Correctional Service will accelerate desired reforms as well as decongestion of Correctional Service Centers across the country.

Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who stated this at the opening of a three-day National Summit on Correctional Reforms in Nigeria, noted that the federal government in its bid to introduce lasting reforms and decongest Correctional Centres has so far released over 11,000 inmates across the country.

This is coming as the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, has observed that for the reforms to be successful, focus should not be only on the legal aspect but should be encompassing as well as involving the private sector, particularly in empowering inmates with necessary skills for life after detention.

Speaking at the occasion, Malami, who noted that the event was the next phase of strategic efforts towards enduring reforms and decongest of Correctional Centers, said with the decentralisation of the service, states will be able to make meaningful contribution in that area.

“In a recent event with the state Heads of Courts and Attorneys-General, I had mentioned that in order to put in place enduring measures for effective management of Correctional Centres for the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders back to the society, the decentralisation of Correctional Service in the country has been proposed.

“This will allow states to effectively participate through the setting up of their own Correctional Centres to manage offenders who commit state offences while the Federal Government will continue to manage offenders who commit federal offences”, he said.

Outside the proposed decentralisation, the AGF disclosed that other efforts made by the government include the development of an Implementation Strategy for the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, as well as implementation of an ICT enabled National Criminal Database to promote effective information management in criminal justice administration, decongestion of Correctional Centres and non-custodial measures.

“Another milestone in the national strategy towards the decongestion and reformation of correctional centres nationwide, is the ongoing collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Justice, Relevant Justice stakeholders and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with focus on implementing Amnesty and Decongestion for Juveniles deprived of their liberty during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” he added.

In a goodwill message, the Minister of Interior, stated that proper planning for reforms of the service should start with the establishment of the “percentage of the Nigerian society that must be incarcerated” because according to him, Correctional Centres is the end of criminal justice.

Aregbesola further submitted that for reforms to be effective, “convicts are expected to come in broken and come out whole,” and also able to easily return to society.

In a remarks, Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion and Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishaq Bello, listed the speedy passage of the Nigerian Correctional Services Bill by the National Assembly and the subsequent signing into law of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari as a major achievement of the Committee.