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Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has released 36 prisoners as part of efforts to decongest the prison following the threat of COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor also directed the Acting Chief Judge of the State, Ijeoma Aguguo, to immediately commence accelerated trial and release of inmates who are awaiting trial on minor charges or allegations.

A statement in Owerri on Friday by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, said the government also directed that the prison trials must observe all COVID-19 safety measures, including wearing of face masks and social distancing.

The governor directed that prisoners affected in the release are those serving three years with less than six months to go.

Others are convicts who have spent up to 25 per cent of their prison terms and minor offenders with three months to six months imprisonment.

The governor advised the released prisoners to reciprocate the government’s gesture by not returning to crime.

The governor has appointed Justice Matthew Njoku as the Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal of Imo.

The governor’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS) and Media Adviser, Oguwike Nwachukwu, in a statement on Friday in Owerri, said the appointment was with immediate effect.

He said the governor communicated the appointment to Mr Njoku in a letter dated April 30.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Why we are making deductions from staff salaries — Gov. El-Rufai

“In compliance with the decision of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and in exercise of my powers as provided for in Section 281 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I hereby appoint you as Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal of Imo pending the appointment of a substantive President of the Customary Court of Appeal for the state.

“The appointment is with immediate effect and all conditions pertaining to this appointment should apply,” he said.

Mr Njoku took over from Francis Abosi, who was suspended and recommended for compulsory retirement by the NJC after finding him guilty of official misconduct.

Mr Njoku, born on January 5, 1957 was, at one time, a Chief Magistrate and Chief Registrar in the Imo Judiciary.

He has been working at the Customary Court of Appeal, Owerri, since 1999.

(NAN)

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