Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the chief judge to free prison inmates who have been awaiting trial for six years or more to ease overcrowding as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
A statement quoted Buhari as saying 42 percent of Nigeria’s 74,000 or so prisoners were awaiting trial. He 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 are terminally ill could be discharged.
In a statement, Buhari said most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities. The overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances. It is for this reason that urgent steps need to be taken to bring the situation under control.
Two weeks ago, Buhari pardoned 2,600 prisoners. These prisoners were either 60 or older or terminally ill. Some of them had less than six months left in their sentences of three years or more.
The country has introduced measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The country has closed its borders. It has also locked down the capital Abuja, the commercial hub, Lagos, and the adjacent state, Ogun.
Coronavirus figures worldwide
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with some 200 million people. As of Wednesday morning, the West African country has 782 confirmed cases and reported 25 deaths of the coronavirus.
According to John Hopkins University, more than 2.5 million people have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. Over 170,000 have died and the United States accounts for about a quarter of all deaths.
The world economy is crashing due to the coronavirus lockdown that many countries all over the world have enforced. Oil futures have plunged below zero for the first time in history.