President Buhari orders Chief Judge to free prison inmates because of coronavirus

The president has called for a decongestion of the nation’s custodial centers to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in those centers.

President Buhari swearing in Tanko Mohammed as CJN (Presidency)

President Buhari swearing in Tanko Mohammed as CJN (Presidency)

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to free inmates who have been awaiting trial for six years or more, in order to decongest the nation’s overcrowded prisons as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads countrywide.

42 percent of Nigeria’s 74,000 or so prisoners are awaiting trial, according to a statement from presidency spokesperson Garba Shehu.

The president urged CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed to reduce that number “since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.”

The president directed that inmates with no confirmed criminal cases against them, elderly prisoners and those who were terminally ill could be discharged.

“Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Buhari pardoned 2,600 prisoners who were either 60 or older, terminally ill, or had less than six months left to serve sentences of three years or more.

At the time of this report, Nigeria has reported 782 coronavirus cases across 24 states and the federal capital city of Abuja.

Lagos, the nation’s commercial hub, has reported the most cases, with 430 persons diagnosed of COVID-19 in the densely populated city.

President Buhari has imposed a month-long lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and adjacent Ogun to slow the spread of the contagious disease.

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