Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the chief judge to free prisoners who have been awaiting trial for six years or more for relief of the overcrowded cells as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, a spokesman said on April 21.
A statement quoted Buhari as saying 42% of 74,000 prisoners were awaiting trial. The President urged Chief Judge Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad to reduce that number “since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible”.
Buhari said inmates with no confirmed criminal cases against them, elderly prisoners and those who were terminally ill could be discharged.
“Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control,” Buhari said.
Two weeks ago, the President pardoned 2,600 prisoners who were either 60 or older, terminally ill, or had less than six months left to serve of sentences of three years or more.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with some 200 million people. On April 20 it said it had registered 665 cases of the coronavirus and 22 related deaths.
Its measures to stop the spread of the virus include closing its borders and locking down the capital Abuja, the commercial hub, Lagos, and the adjacent state, Ogu