CJN Orders Release Of Prison Inmates Without Criminal Cases

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has ordered the Chief Judges of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to ensure a speedy trial of criminal cases to ease overcrowding in prisons.He urged them to “consider conditional or unconditional release of Awaiting Trial Persons who have spent six years or more in custody”.The CJN, who doubles as Chairman of the National Judicial Council, gave this directive in a memo with reference number, NJC/CIR/HOC/II/662, and dated May 15, 2020.The memo addressed to state CJs was posted on the NJC’s website on Friday.Muhammad said his directive was in line with the call by the United Nations on countries “to consciously reduce the population of inmates since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible” during the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.The CJN, who decried the increasing number of awaiting trial inmates, said out of 74,127 people in the various prisons 52,226 of them were being held on remand awaiting trial.He told the CJs “to embark on immediate visits to all custodial/correctional centres within your respective states to identify and release deserving inmates, where that has not been done already.”He urged them to consider releasing awaiting inmate prisoners who had spent six years or more.He also told the CJs to consider discharging awaiting trial persons who had no confirmed criminal cases against them, the aged and terminally ill.

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