Why Buhari ordered Tanko Muhammad to release prison inmates awaiting trial

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday ordered the chief judge, Tanko Muhammad to effect the release of prison inmates who have been awaiting trial for the past six years or more in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to a statement released by the Presidency, about 42 percent of Nigeria's 74,000 prisoners are awaiting trial. Buhari said inmates who have no confirmed criminal cases, elderly prisoners, and those who are terminally ill could be discharged to declutter the prisons.

"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," he said.

President Buhari had earlier pardoned about 2,600 prisoners who were either 60 years or older and those who were terminally ill or had less than six months to serve a sentence of three years or beyond. The reduction in the prison population is expected to aid in physical distancing and self-isolation to avoid further spread of the Coronavirus.

Nigeria is currently experiencing rising cases of Coronavirus with a total of 873 cases and 28 deaths. Major cities like Lagos and Abuja are on total lockdown while the country's borders, schools, businesses, and social activities have been suspended.

The government is taking precautions to prevent a major outbreak in the country of about 200 million people.

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