COVID-19: 150 Convicts Regain Freedom In Delta

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State

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By; ONYEKACHUKWU MELUWA, Warri

The Delta State Government has granted amnesty to One hundred and fifty convicted inmates at the three Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service across the state.

The State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro who concluded visit to prisons on Thursday April 23 said the amnesty granted to the inmates by the state government is part of the measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) ravaging the entire globe.

Fourty-nine (49) inmates were released at Warri, Fourty-sis (46) at Agbor, Twenty-seven (27) at Ogwashi-Uku while Twenty-sive (25) and three (3) were pardoned at Kwale and Sapele Custodial Centres, respectively.

At Warri Custodial Centre, the Chief Judge was piqued by the unruly behavior of the inmates which made him to conduct the exercise at the reception.

The State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro cautioned pardoned convicts not to return to crime, saying that their release does not obliterate their criminal records.

Justice Umukoro gave the warning while addressing  inmates. He said that, “while the pardon granted to inmates  frees them from legal disabilities as citizens of Nigeria, such mercy does not erase the fact that they were ex convicts.

“The beneficiaries of the Governor’s prerogative of mercy should sit at home in strict adherence to the order of the State government geared towards curbing the spread of the COVID-19.

The state number one Judicial Officer also stated that, “the exercise was in line with the Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Custodial Centres, the directive mandated the state governors through Chief Judges of each state to identify and release deserving inmates.

“The criteria spelt out by the directive included inmates who were 60 years and above, those with mental health issues, inmates with option of fine not exceeding fifty thousand naira and have no pending case, children staying with their mother, convicted inmates with minor offences and convicted inmates who have spent 75 percent of their remaining sentence after remission.

“Fresh convicts did not benefit from the pardon even though their names were on the list compiled from Abuja since they  had just served a few months.

“A case in point was an inmate convicted to 11 years imprisonment but had served only 10 months.

“Releasing such inmates on mere ground of COVID-19 would be insensitive to feelings of the victims, state and society, stressing that the compassion  was meant for only deserving convicts.

Justice Umukoro asked those convicted for serious crime such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated offences which were inimical to society, should apply to the Committee of Prerogative of Mercy for amnesty from the governor.

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