Niger govt moves to decongest prisons

By Tina George, Minna

Niger state government has set up a committee to look into ways of decongesting the prisons across the state by granting amnesty to some prisoners. 

The Council of Prerogatives of Mercy Committee, which is headed by the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Secretary to the state government, Alhaji Baba Wachiko Yahaya has 17 members drawn from the Traditional institution, ministry of health, ministry of justice, ministry of gender affairs, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Social Welfare and other ministries. 

The Chairman of the Committee, Yahaya who spoke to newsmen after their visits to the old and medium prisons in Minna said by granting amnesty to some of the inmates, government would be able to decongest prisons in the state.

He added that the Commitee would also look into prisons condition and facilities across with a view to advising the government on areas of intervention.

Wachiko said that those who would be granted amnesty would be considered following some factors which include,  those convicted with less than six months to the end of their sentence, those serving various jail term due to their inability to pay their fine and make recommendations to the government and condemned prisoners and lifers who have spent more than ten years and have been of good conduct.

“We will recommend to the governor those prisoners that deserve pardon and those serving various jail term because they could not pay their fine.

“The Committee will also look at the conditions and facilities at the prisons across the state and to see how and where the government can intervene”.

Wachiko further lamented the high number of inmates awaiting trials in the prisons, majority of whom are females urging the judiciary to work towards ensuring speedy process of trials. 

“There are a lot of awaiting trial cases which are sympathetic but we cannot address them because they are not in our mandate. There is need for the judiciary to do something regarding the large number of awaiting cases in the prisons.

 “Judges and Magistrates need to see that trials do not take much time. The Judiciary need to ensure speedy process of criminal cases. Just the way it is being done in political trials, similar things should be done in cases that are not political.”