2,600 prisoners granted amnesty nationwide

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President Muhammadu Buhari has granted amnesty to 2,600 prisons inmates in all the Correctional Centres in the country.

Late first republic politician Chief Anthony Enaharo and former Governor of old Bendel State late Professor Ambrose Alli were also granted presidential pardons.

Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who made the announcement in Abuja at a world press conference, explained that in arriving at the amnesty various issues were looked at and several options considered.

“Five ex-convicts recommended for presidential pardon have been so pardoned. They are late Prof Ambrose Ali, Late Chief Anthony Enahoro, Ex Lt Col Moses Effiong, Major E J Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola,” the minister said.

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Prof Ali was the governor of the old Bendel State in the Second Republic (1978-1983) and a progressive, while Chief Enahoro was a foremost nationalist who moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence.

According to him, “the most pertinent and accordingly adopted are: Old age: This is for inmates that are 60 years old and above; those suffering from ill-health that are likely to terminate in death; Convicts serving three years and above and have less than six months to serve.”

Other criteria include “Inmates with mental health issues and Inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case.”

Using these criteria, the minister said that a total number of 2,600 inmates spread across Nigeria’s various custodial centres qualify to benefit from the amnesty.

“These include 885 convicts who could not pay their fines totalling N21.4 million which the government will pay on their behalf to enable them get their freedom.

“From this number, 41 inmates are federal convicts, two of which have been granted pardon,” the minister explained further.

He pointed out that the amnesty does not apply to inmates sentenced for violent and extreme offences such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry, rape, human trafficking and culpable homicide.

This, he said, has put to rest the wild speculations that have been going around on the categories of inmates to benefit from the amnesty.

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The minister and other dignitaries later proceeded to Kuje Custodial Centre to release 41 inmates in a symbolic gesture of the freedom that has been granted to 2,600 others across the federation.

“The governors of the 36 states under whose jurisdiction the inmates were incarcerated will complete the exercise in line with our federal principle,” he said.

Other dignitaries that accompanied Aregbesola to release the incarcerated inmates included the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Information Minister Lai Mohammed, Chief of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Justice Ishaq Bello, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Georgina E Ehuriah, and the Controller General, Nigeria Correctional Service, Ja’Afaru Ahmed.

In his speech, Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami said that the United Nations (UN) had advised member-states to reduce the number of inmates in custodial centres in view of the social distancing policy aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

He described the launch of the 2020 presidential pardon as historic, adding that the process of selecting beneficiaries started in 2018. He went on to warn the pardoned ex-convicts to desist from crimes, urging the community to receive them without stigmatisation.

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Malami lamented that 70 per cent of inmates in Nigeria’s Correctional Centres are awaiting trial.

The Controller-General of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, in his remarks said that so far the Service had not recorded any case of COVID-19 in the prison system.

He said that the amnesty granted former inmates would go a long way in reducing the number of inmates in the system nationwide.

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