As part of efforts to decongest Nigerian prisons, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, granted presidential pardon to 2,600 inmates nationwide.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said this at a press conference on Abuja. He said after the release of the first phase, the committee would continue to meet regularly to consider those who deserve the benefit.
He said the criteria for the release include 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, inmates with mental health issues, and inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case.
“Using these criteria, a total number of 2,600 inmates spread across our various custodial centres qualify to benefit from the amnesty,” he said.
“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, he said
Out of the said number, 70 inmates will be released on Thursday from Kuje maximum custodial centre.
“We will proceed from here to Kuje custodial centre to release the 41 in a symbolic gesture of the freedom that have been given to 2,600 inmates 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
Mr Aregbesola also announced that Mr Buhari also pardoned late Ambrose Ali, late Anthony Enahoro, Moses Effiong, E.J. Olanrewaju, and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
Mr Ali was the governor of the old Bendel State in the Second Republic (1978-1983) and a progressive while Mr Enahoro was a foremost nationalist who moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence.
Also speaking, the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the United Nations had called the nations of the world to reduce the number of inmates in custodial centres in view of social distancing attitude.
While describing the flag off of the 2020 presidential pardon as historic, Mr Malami said the process of selecting benefiaries started in 2018.
He warned the beneficiaries to desist from crimes.
Mr Malami also urged the community to open their hands and receive the boundaries with stigmatisation.
He lamented that 70 per cent of inmate in Nigeria prison are awaiting trial.
Mr Malami explained that the process of coming up with the list of beneficiaries commenced in 2018 when, on August 28, 2018, sequel to Mr Buhari’s approval, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) was inaugurated.
He said the committee was to advise Mr Buhari on granting pardon/clemency to deserving inmates and ex-convicts in line with the provisions of section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
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In carrying out the assignment, he said that the Committee adopted the use of interviews, observations, consultation and relevant documents called for and received from each of the Correctional Centres in Nigeria.
He said the Committee visited a number of correctional centres in the six geo-political zones of the country to interact and identify those eligible for Presidential Pardon/Clemency.
Mr Malami said that upon conclusion of the assignment, a report of the Committee, containing the list of beneficiaries considered and recommended for Pardon or Clemency was submitted for the information and necessary action by the President.
“Out of the 176 persons interviewed, Presidential Pardon has been granted to two inmates. Mr President granted clemency to 39 inmates as recommended by the PACPM, out of which four inmates are from Kuje Correctional Centre,” he said.
“In addition, Mr President has also graciously granted Pardon to five Ex – Convicts. My office will take necessary steps to publish the names of these beneficiaries in the Federal Gazette in line with extant laws and Regulations,” he said.
He said that in furtherance to the efforts to put COVID -19 under control, Mr Buhari requested appropriate authorities to embark on a visit to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates.
The Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Ja’afaru Ahmed, said so far, the service has not recorded any case of COVID-19.
He said the exercise would go a long way in reducing the number of inmates in the service nationwide.