Criminals awaiting execution may have received a lifeline following President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to a new law yesterday.
The approval came three months after the dissolution of the Eighth National Assembly, which passed the bill.
The new legislation, known as Nigerian Correctional Service Act (2019), repeals the Prisons Act and changes the name of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service.
Section 12 (2) (c) of the new law 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.”
The law also makes provision for the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial, even as Section 12 (8) empowers the state Controller of the Service to reject the intake of more inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre in question is full.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, disclosed this to State House correspondents at Aso Villa, Abuja.
The Act has divided the Nigerian Correctional Service into two faculties namely, custodial service and non-custodial service, he said.
According to him, the custodial service takes charge of persons legally interned and ensures they are in safe, secure and humane conditions. It oversees the conveying of persons to and from courts in motorised formations; identifies the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates; and conducts risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
On whether Buhari signed the bill within the constitutionally stipulated time, Enang answered in the affirmative, stating that the piece of legislation was transmitted to him on July 20 and was assented to on August 14, fulfilling the 30 days’ period.
Also, the president okayed the law, which renames the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi after nationalist and indigene of Benue State, the late Dr. Joseph Sarwuan Tarka.
Henceforth, the tertiary institution is to be known and addressed as J.S. Tarka University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
Buhari’s assent gives effect to the Amendment Act, 2019, No 2.
Enang said: “This Act amends the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act, Cap. F22, Law of the Federation of Nigeria to change the name of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi in Benue State to Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi.”
On May 18, 2016, the Eighth House of Representatives had at it’s plenary first approved the renaming of the federal university.
The late Tarka was a Minister for Transport and later Communications under the General Yakubu Gowon military administration.
He was one of the founding members of the United Middle Belt Congress, and a Second Republic senator under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).[?]