The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has ordered the heads of various courts to immediately speed up the trial of cases and decongestion of custodial centres in the country. In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, he said there was a need to take the urgent measures in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Justice Muhammad, who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, explained that the United Nations had called for the reduction of the population of prison inmates to aid physical distancing in such facilities. According to him, records show that Nigeria has about 74,127 inmates at various custodial centres and 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).
The CJN was worried that most of the centres were housing inmates beyond their capacities and the congested facilities were harmful to the health of the inmates. He, therefore, directed the heads of courts to urgently visit all custodial and correctional centres within their jurisdictions to identify and release deserving inmates, where that has not been done already.
Justice Muhammad recommended the conditional and unconditional release, as well as payment of fines of awaiting trial persons depending on the categories they fall within.