Sentencing guidelines to accelerate decongestion of correctional centres ― Malami
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said the consolidated federal capital territory courts sentencing guidelines and practice will accelerate decongestion of correctional centres across the country.
Malami’s Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, in a statement made available to newsmen, on Monday, said the Minister made the remark at the signing of the Consolidated Federal Capital Territory Courts (Custodial and Non – Custodial Sentencing ) Practice Directions, 2020.
He said the introduction of non-custodial sentences by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and more recently, the provision of a clear legislative and institutional framework for their implementation by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 were efforts by the Federal Government to address the problem of congestion in correctional facilities in Nigeria.
“The provision for non-custodial sentences such as probation, community service, restitution, compensation and suspended sentence by the ACJA 2015, was one of the main innovations of the Act,” he said.
The Minister said the FCT Courts Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions 2020 was geared towards implementing one of the major recommendations of the National Workshop on the Effective Implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, held between November 25 – 27, 2019 in Abuja.
He said at that Workshop which brought together critical Stakeholders in the Administration of Justice Sector, both at the State and Federal levels, it was resolved that, for proper and effective implementation of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Direction commencing with the FCT, should be produced as a matter of urgency and issued especially for the implementation of non-custodial measures provided under Part II of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
The Minister said following the harmonisation of the inputs of the stakeholders at the National Workshop, a Technical Working Committee put in place by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion subsequently developed a Draft FCT Courts (Non-Custodial Sentence) Practice Directions, 2020.
Malami recalled that at a retreat organised by the Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion which held at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from March 16 -18 2020, ‘the Draft FCT Courts (Non-Custodial Sentence) Practice Directions, 2020’ was subjected to stakeholders review.
He said stakeholders, after a review of the document, recommended that the Draft be consolidated with the existing ‘Federal Capital Territory Courts (Sentencing Guidelines) Practice Direction, 2016 to avoid multiplicity of Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions on the same subject.
The Minister said the Consolidated Draft Document was subjected to a general review at the Virtual Interactive Session held on August 17, 2020, and later a Technical Working Committee made up of Judges, Magistrates from the FCT Judiciary and other relevant stakeholders was constituted to review, ratify, validate and adopt the consolidated draft document which was signed yesterday by the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello.
“It is expected that this pilot document will be extended to other States of the Federation, especially those States that have enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ADJA).
“Our conviction is that these Guidelines and Practice Directions will bring about the expected change in sentencing and will in particular, effectively enable the deployment of non–custodial measures,” he said.
He said from experience from other jurisdictions, the Sentencing Guidelines will accelerate the decongestion of Correctional Centres nationwide.
Malami said the consolidated Sentencing Guidelines and Practice Directions will set out the appropriate standards and guideline for the sentencing process in offences against the state, person, public order, morality, homicide, property and corruption-related offences, for the purpose of ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in sentencing in the Federal Capital Territory.
Other objectives of the practice direction include setting out the requirements and procedure for imposing custodial and non-custodial sentences for the purpose of preventing abuse and ensuring reasonable uniformity and fairness in the imposition of sentences and to ensure that congestion in prisons is reduced to the barest minimum through the use of non-custodial sentences.