Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and critical stakeholders have again expressed concern over the state of correctional facilities which they noted have left inmates more hardened than reformed.
The Chief Judge said there indicators that point to the fact that the incidence of high number of inmates is not reducing across custodial centres in the country.
Bello said this at a strategic and sensitization workshop for FCT judiciary on the implementation of non custodial sentencing organized by the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) in Abuja on Thursday.
The judge regrets that inmates on awaiting trial or inmates who committed minor offences that does not require custodial measures constitutes the larger number and as a result become more hardened. Quoting recent statistics, Bello said only 30% are convicts, while the larger 70% are awaiting trial.
The judge said its was expedient to begin exploring proactive measures the large number of prisoners which has resulted in over crowding of prisons and overstretched facilities. He said non custodial sentencing will be effective in addressing the problem.
The chief Judge called on courts to as much as possible reduce the incidences of custodial sentencing within the limit of its jurisdiction.
He further informed that in addition to the NCS Act, the FCT guidelines have been reviewed to include non custodial sentencing and he has signed the new FCT custodial and non custodial sentencing practice directory 2020 on the 2nd of November.
Jafaru Ahmed, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Correctional Service expressed optimism that the workshop will deepen an understanding between the NCS and the judiciary and bring a holistic and better understanding in the implementation process of the Act.
The Comptroller who was represented by Mr. Tunde Ladipo noted that the problem created in the provision of ACJA especially on Non-Custodial measures appears to be in conflict with the NCS Act.
He again expressed optimism that the judiciary will be able to provide a leverage to diffuse and offer a sustainable atmosphere to serve as a leverage regarding the apparent lacuna.
“This works will give an ample opportunity to fine tune a better harmonisation of the provisions of both acts”, he said.
Dr Garba Abari, Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), on his part said there is a need to look at the efficient record keeping system and data of these convicts and those awaiting trial.
The DG who was represented by Dr Mrs Karmell Andzenge said an efficient record keeping will make it easy for the court to determine those in awaiting trials to apply the non- custodial sentencing to them.