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Covid19: Plan to decongest Nigeria's Custodial Centres laudable - Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA)

By Olawale Oyegbade, The Nigerian Voice, S/W Bureau Chief
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The Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action ( PRAWA) has commended the move by the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola to decongest the custodial centres in the country as part of precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the ravaging Coronavirus.

The Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomoh gave the commendation In a press statement made available to The Nigerian Voice.

According to the statement "The Fundamental Objectives of government under S. 17(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to safeguard the health of citizens and to provide adequate health care facilities".

"Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights also provides that government must recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health which includes the prevention, treatment and control of epidemics and pandemics".

"These are examples of some of the provisions of International, Regional and National Human Rights Instruments the Nigerian government has the obligation to implement.

"COVID-19 is a realistic test of the commitment of nations across the world to human rights promotion, protection and fulfillment.

"Expectedly, Human Rights protection in the case of this pandemic should comply with the standard and principles of equality and non-discrimination. It has been scientifically established that COVID-19 attacks all human beings without discrimination as to race, class or status.

"The world records over 500,000 cases of COVID-19 as at 27th March, 2020. It is only logical then that all measures and strategies put in place to fight this pandemic applies to all human beings without any form of discrimination.

"Prevention and Caution have been identified as the greatest weapon against COVID -19. Part of the preventive measures include social distancing and high level of sanitary regime. An effective fight against the pandemic therefore would require individuals to be in environments where they are able to apply these preventive measures.

"However, our reality is that not everyone is in such conducive environments as we speak today. Some persons are in refugee camps, Internally Displaced persons Camps, Detention Facilities etc. across the world.

"Ordinarily, these persons cannot help themselves and this calls for political will from governments of nations to take pro-active measures to ensure that there is no spread of the virus within these facilities.

"What then should be done? At a time like this we are persuaded to share lessons learned from good practices across the globe.

"In line with lessons learned, there have been calls from individuals and organizations that for Nigeria to win this fight, every human being must be put into the protection scheme.

"The prevention and treatment regimes must accommodate every individual in Nigeria in line with the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination.

"This calls for plans that would accommodate all classes of individuals and all communities across the country".

"Persons in detention in Nigeria have been identified as vulnerable in the face of this pandemic given the congestion in most places of detention across the country and the challenges of attempts of maintaining social distancing and healthy sanitary regimes in such places".

"It is against this background that PRAWA is most elated to learn of the steps taken by the Hon Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola to address these identified challenges".

"The Hon. Minister has demonstrated great political will and astute leadership by calling for the immediate decongestion of all the Correctional Centres in the country as a measure to ensure that the Coronavirus disease, otherwise known as COVID-19 does not find its way into any of the Custodial Centres".

"Interestingly the show of concern from the Hon Minister does not end there, he goes ahead to seek partnership and synergy amongst all stakeholders in ensuring that the pandemic does not hit Custodial facilities."

"This is a right step in the right direction and PRAWA stands with the Hon. Minister on this. As an organization, we therefore wish to respond to the Hon. Minister’s call on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, States Chief Judges, the Governors and other stakeholders in the Justice Sector to immediately identify measures to be taken for quick decongestion of the custodial centres across the country as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the Centers."