Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari asked the chief judge to free prison inmates awaiting trial for six years or more to ease overcrowding as novel coronavirus spreads, a spokesman said.
A statement quoted Buhari as saying 42% of Nigeria’s 74 000 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, elderly prisoners and the terminally ill could be discharged.
“Most custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to inmates’ health and the public in general in view of circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Buhari pardoned 2 600 prisoners 60 or older, terminally ill or had less than six months to serve of sentences of three years or more.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with some 200 million people. On Monday registered 665 cases of coronavirus and 22 deaths.
Measures to stop the spread of the virus include closing borders and locking down the capital Abuja, commercial hub Lagos and the adjacent state, Ogun.