From: Nosa Akenzua, Asaba
The Delta State Government today released 25 convicted inmates at the Nigerian Correctional Service, Kwale Custodian Centre as a measure to stem the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the State.
The State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro while addressing press men at the Centre stated that the exercise was sequel to a directive from Abuja to the State Governor, Attorney General and the Chief Judge to release convicts who have less than three years to serve their prison term as measure to curtail the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 ravaging the whole world.
He said: “ We got a letter from Abuja addressed to the Governor, Attorney General and Chief Judge to endeavour to release convicted inmates who have less than three years to serve their term.”
Justice Umukoro who disclosed that he would embark on regular visit to Correctional Centres later this year to address awaiting trial inmates, explained that those released today fell into the category of those who were terminally ill, low risk offenders, some who ought not to be there and those who have less than three years to serve.
According to him, those convicted for serious offences like kidnapping, murder and armed robbery were not included in the current exercise, even as he advised such ones to approach the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy set up by the Governor to advise the governor to grant amnesty.
The Chief Judge Charged those pardoned to stay in their houses as they return home until the pandemic was over and when the state government lift the lockdown order, even as he enjoined them to appreciate government’s compassion by being law abiding ,and refrain from any criminal act that would bring them back to prison.
The Controller, Nigerian Correctional Service, Delta State Ovie Friday Ezesobor thanked the federal, state governments and the State Chief Judge for the releases, stating it was a great relief to them in this critical moment that COVID-19 was posing a great threat to existence of humanity.
Some of the pardoned convicts interviewed expressed gratitude to the federal, state governments and the Chief Judge for the mercy shown to them, promising to be of good conduct all the rest of their life.
However, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC Rep) of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Barr. Nelson Otunuya Enumah has called on the federal, state governments, Nigerian Correctional Service and relevant institutions and agencies to provide custodial centres across the federation with coronavirus test kits to test inmates and new suspects brought to prisons to ascertain their health status.
Barr. Enumah who observed that without such medical examination conducted to isolate positive from negative inmates, asserted that the Correctional Centres could be a fertile ground for the spread of the virus, and this, according to him, could be counterproductive to the fight against the deadly disease.