Buhari renames Nigerian Prisons, signs bill giving lifeline to condemned criminals

Changes Makurdi Agric varsity to Joseph Tarka

President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to two bills including the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, which gives a life line to condemned criminals not executed 10 years after exhausting all legal procedures for appeal.

Section 12 (2) (c) of the Act provides that “where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.”

The other bill assented to by the President is the Federal Universities of Agriculture (Amendment No.2) Act, 2019, which changes the name of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi in Benue State to Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi.

Ita Enang Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), who briefed State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday, explained that the

Nigerian Correctional Service Bill, 2019 repeals the Prisons Acts and changes the name from Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service, otherwise known as “the Correctional Service.”

According to the Act, there are two main faculties of the Correctional Service, including Custodial Service and Non-custodial Service.

The Custodial Service addresses the issue of custody and takes control of persons legally interned in safe, secure and humane conditions; conveying remand persons to and from courts in motorised formations; and identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates.

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It also swells on conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration; implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society; initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counseling services for all offenders including violent extremists and empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries.

Similarly, the Custodial Service concerns itself with administering borstal and related institutions and providing support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial; and it further empowers, in section 12 (8), the state Comptroller of the Service to reject more intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre in question is filled to capacity.

On the other hand, non-custodial faculty of the Correctional Service is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures, including Community Service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.

Restorative Justice measure approved in the Act includes victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary pre-trial, trial during imprisonment or even post- imprisonment stages.

Enang revealed that the Act provides an opportunity for inmates to engage in the commercial venture and retain one-third of their earning.

Assuring that the money will get to such inmates, he added: “Because the law has stated that the money will be divided into three places, the person who produces will take one third, the prisoner will take one third and the last one third will go to consolidated revenue fund of the federation.”

The Federal Universities of Agriculture (Amendment No.2) Act, 2019 amends the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act, Cap. F22, Law of the Federation of Nigeria to change the name of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi in Benue State to Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi.

When told that the President may have assented to the bill passed during the 8th Assembly as they may have lapsed, the presidential aide explained that the period allowed for presidential assent to any bill begins to count from the day the bill is transmitted to him.

He said: “When a bill is passed, it goes through a process National Assembly management, particularly the legal department of the office of the Clark to National Assembly.

“The time of Mr. President begins to run from the date that the bills are transmitted to him.

“The time doesn’t begin to run from the dates the bills were passed. It is 30 days from the date when the bill was transmitted to him.

“This bill was transmitted to him on July 20th and was assented to on August 14th. So, Mr. President signed within the 30 days period.

“After bills are passed by the legislature, there are still other processes of assembling which the Clerk of the Assembly undertakes before he forwards to us.

“I believe these are one of the few bills remaining, I won’t say another will not come.”

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