The Nigeria Prisons Service will now be known as Nigeria Correctional Service, thanks to a bill assented by President Muhammadu Buhari during the week.
Why it matters: The Correctional Service Act (2019) is a repeal of the 1972 Nigeria Prisons Act. This bill was one of the bills pending presidential assent from the previous (8th) National Assembly. Recall, that President Buhari had earlier declined assent to the bill over some of its provisions.
What it means: In effect, the change of the name of the Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigeria Correctional Service does not stop there. The act represents an attempt to reform the functions of the Nigerian prison system from punitive to correctional.
Key among the proposals of the act include:
- Shift from capital punishment to a more lenient approach for convicts. A portion of the newly signed law, Section 12 (2) (c), states: “Where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.”
- “Implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society”
- “Initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counselling services for all offenders including violent extremists”
- “empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes”
- “facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries”
Bottomline: Nigerians will be watching to see how (or if) this law will be implemented soon. The law also appears to be a good step towards the reduction of capital punishments.