A GROUP of Nigerian Civil Society Organisations (CSO) has called on the Federal Government to decongest Nigerian police cells and correctional centres across the country in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the inmates.
In a press release signed by 51 CSos and obtained by The ICIR, the group commended the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, for issuing directives to State and Zonal commands of the police to avoid unnecessary arrests and detention of persons in police cells except for serious (capital) offences.
However, it urged the IGP to put in place mechanisms to ensure and effectively monitor compliance from officers.
The group of CSOs noted that some states in the country still lock up offenders for bailable offences such as misdemeanours warning that such a practice has only resulted in congestion of the correctional centres and police cells.
This, the group said, negates the efforts of building a system which promotes social distancing in this COVID-19 period.
In addition, the CSOs pointed out in the statement that some states lack testing laboratories and isolation centres, whereby detainees in urgent need of medical attention in those states can’t access healthcare, making them vulnerable and more exposed to the deadly virus.
The group, therefore, called that appropriate measures are taking to decongest the police cells and correctional centres at this time.
“We call on Chief Magistrates in states, in fulfilment of their obligations under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, and in compliance with the 2019 Practice Direction of the Chief Justice of Nigeria on visits to police custody facilities to embark on inspection visits to police stations within their jurisdictions with a view to ensuring the immediate release of detainees based on established criteria, to decongest the cells and prevent likely infection and spread of COVID-19,” the group proposed in its statement.
It also called on the Attorney- General and Minister of Justice and State Attorneys General, to also initiate steps for an audit of police cells and correctional centres, including juvenile correctional facilities, to decongest them.
Ultimately, the group called for the immediate provision of information on coronavirus, urgent disinfection and distribution of sanitary materials to all holding facilities, and provision and access to running water at each facility for all detainees and prisoners.
The group of CSOs include Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Spaces for Change (S4C), Vision Spring Initiative, Lagos, Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF), Echoes of women in Africa initiative, Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP), Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE), Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP), Foundation for Justice and Rehabilitation of prisoners FJRP, Lagos, People Against Corruption and Injustice, Nde Oduko Foundation – NDOF, Sterling Centre for Law &Development, Partners West Africa- Nigeria, Safer World Foundation, Amnesty International Nigeria, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation(DNF), Women Initiative for Leadership Strategy & Innovation in Africa (Women Africa), Centre for Social Transformation and Human Development (CHDST).
Others include; Ace and Vanguard Legal Practitioners, Human Rights Advocacy Group Lagos, Life Wire International Foundation, LEDAP – Legal Defence & Assistance Project, Legal Defence Against Injustice Initiative, Lawyers Alert, Daniel Ukwu Leadership Foundation (Dulf) supported, PEP- Public Enlightenment Projects, Global Rights, Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI), Lagos Civil Society Participation for Development (LACSOP), Youth Advocates For Peace Justice And Empowerment Network (YAPJEN), Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Abuja, Independent Advocacy Project IAP Lagos, Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF), Tap Intiative For Citizens Development, WILPF Nigeria, Avocats Sans Frontières France, CLEEN Foundation, Women Information Network (WINET), Edo Civil Society Organisations, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), House of Justice, Prison Fellowship, Democracy and Human Rights Network, DHRN, Community Agenda for Peace, Committee for the Defence of Human Right, Human Rights Watch, Alliances for Africa, NOPRIN, Nigerian Feminist Forum, CISLAC – Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.