Human rights group known as Lawyers Alert has in conjunction with Prison Inmate Development Initiative (PIDI-NIGERIA) issued a 5-day warning to the Bauchi State Government to implement the federal government’s directive on prison decongestion or face legal fireworks.
The NGOs made their position known on Tuesday in an open letter to the State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, signed and made available to newsmen by the Executive Director of PIDI-Nigeria, Mbami Sabka in Bauchi.
“We would, however, be compelled to approach the courts to compel you to carry out this noble directive in the event of your failure to activate the process within 5 days from your receipt of this letter,” Part of the statement reads.
The letter, titled, “Re: Federal Government Directive On Decongestion Of Correctional Facilities, Need For Activation said, “without doubt, we are all aware of COVID-19 Pandemic, the consequences and the science of its infection which without doubt makes the correctional service centres (prisons) a place of high risk infection.
The organization said, “with over 72,000 inmates in congested and largely unhygienic places, infections can be an inferno within this context if interventions are not quickly carried out”.
The group which said the intervention include decongesting the correctional service centres of inmates awaiting trial and other groups of inmates, expressed confidence that such was what informed the recent approval given by President Muhammadu Buhari on the urgent need to decongest Nigeria’s correctional service centres.
“The president equally directed that urgent steps be taken to decongest the facilities to prevent fatalities arising from any likely outbreak of the virus,” they recalled.
The group explained that the presidential committee on the decongestion of correctional facilities subsequently met on the steps to actualize the directive of the president.
According to them, the committee resolved that the Federal Ministry of Justice, the correctional service formations, governors, Attorney Generals of states intensify actions to reduce inmates amid the health challenges associated with COViD-19.
The rights groups while noting that the deadly virus has continued to cause more destruction by shutting down the whole world, lamented that no active steps have been taken so far by the Nigerian government to save the lives of over 50 thousand awaiting trial inmates in its correctional formations.
“We must admit that we are not unaware of the bureaucratic bottlenecks that usually accompany exercises of this nature in Nigeria. We, however, believed this must be treated differently as it is a matter of life and death. We cannot afford to have the Coronavirus disease make entry into our congested correctional facilities,” The groups said.
They further said, “This is to inform you of the willingness of lawyers who are alert in partnership with PIDI Bauchi state and several human rights groups to assist you in activation of this noble objective in view of the well-deserved urgency required in whatever we can.”
The groups expressed confidence that within 5 working days from the date of the service of the letter, it will be possible for the office of Bauchi State Attorney-General to facilitate the release of inmates that are qualified for the gesture by carrying out an enumeration of all of them in accordance with the accompaied guidelines and file same in court for appropriate releasing orders.