The Chief Judge of Plateau , Justice Yakubu Dakwak, on Monday discharged 50 awaiting trial inmates who had been in custody at the Jos Correctional Centre over different minor offences.
Dakwak said that the release of the suspects was in line with the decision of the Federal Government to decongest the custodial centres in the country, as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The Chief Judge, however, said that those standing trial over alleged violent offences like murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape did not benefit from the reprieve.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that those discharged committed minor offences such as: theft, breach of trust and inciting public disturbance.
NAN reports that the suspects had been on remand for many months with some spending over a year in jail without going on trial.
The Chief Judge while discharging the suspects, however, said they were discharged of the offences but not acquitted.
“I want to tell all of you that you have been discharged but not acquitted.
“If you go out there and commit another crime, you will come back here and we will reopen this case and still try you for the new one you committed.
“We expect you to be of good behaviour and take this as a chance to turn a new leaf and shun crime,” he said.
Dakwak said that the exercise would continue quarterly in all the correctional centres in the state to help decongest the facilities and also promised to ensure speedy trials for accused persons.
The Controller of Corrections, Plateau Command, Mr Samuel Aguda, said that the Command had 1,441 inmates in the state, with the Jos Custodial Centre alone accounting for 888 inmates out of the number.
Aguda said that there were 652 awaiting trial, 572 convicts and 228 condemned convicts.
He lauded the decongestion initiative stating that it would give room for social and physical distancing in the facilities in view of the rampaging effect of the Coronavirus disease.
The Controller, however, said that the permanent solution to custodial congestion was for stakeholders to look inwards and start the full implementation of the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2018 of Plateau state.
Aguda also appealed to lower court judges to start sentencing minor offenders to community service instead of sending them to custodial sentences.