President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law a legislation by the National Assembly, the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019, changing the Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.
The legislation also creates two broad departments namely Custodial Service and Non-costodial Service, and empowers State Controllers of Service to reject more intakes of inmates where facilities are filled to capacity in order to address the worrisome issue of prison congestion.
Section 12 (2) (C) of the new legislation also empowers the Chief Judge to commute death sentence to life imprisonment where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and has spent 10 years without execution of the death sentence.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Mr Ita Enang told State House correspondents Tuesday that the Custodial Service unit is empowered to take custody and control of persons legally interned in safe, secure and humane conditions and convey remand persons to and from courts in motorized formations.
He said the unit is also responsible for identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates; conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.
The presidential aide said the Custodial Service unit would also be implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates into the society, and initiate behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counseling services for all offenders including violent extremists
He said the unit is also tasked with the responsibility of empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries, among others.
He said the Non-custodial Service unit is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures such as community service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.
He said restorative justice approved for the Non-custodial Service unit include victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary in pre-trial, during trial and imprisonment or even post- imprisonment stages.
Asked why it took the president this long to assent to bills that were passed by the 8th National Assembly that was dissolved on June 8, 2019, Enang 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 20, 2018 and was assented to in August, so Mr. President signed within the 30 days period.”
Enang also told journalists that the president also signed the Federal University of Agriculture (Amendment No.2) Act 2019.
“This Act amends the Federal University 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.”