By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
No fewer than 13 inmates, yesterday, regained their freedom from various Correctional Centers in Akwa Ibom State, when the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion visited the state.
Out of these thirteen (13) inmates was a seventy-year-old man, 11 of them had their option of fine paid by the State government while two were released on grounds of ill health.
This was made known in a statement released by the Deputy Director of the Minister of Justice, Mrs. Module Ogundoro.
The statement informed that the Chairman of the Presidential Committee and Chief Judge, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Honourable Justice Ishaq U. Bello disclosed the number of the released inmates at the end of the decongestion exercise and facility tour of the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Monday March 16, 2020.
Hon. Justice Bello said, “a total inmates released are 13 from the Correctional Centre, out of this, 11 of them had their option of fine paid by the State government. Two were released on grounds of ill health.
He explained that the 13 inmates were released in accordance to the mandate given to the committee.
The pardon for their release were based on those who were convicted of minor offences with option of fines but were unable to pay, old age, ill health, overstay of statutory detention period and other factors that could justify their release.
He disclosed that the release was at the instance of the state government to settle the fines on behalf of the convicted inmates and set them free.
The Chairman admonished the released inmates to be of good conduct, not to involve in crimes that would likely bring them back to the correctional centre.
The Controller of Correctional Service, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Aleze Oditah, in his opening remarks, expressed difficulties and challenges encountered in the management of the inmates due to over population.
He disclosed that the Uyo Correctional Centre housed over 1,347 inmates overshooting its capacity of 612 inmates with about 70% of them on awaiting trial.
Oditah however acknowledged that with the Ecological funding from the State Government, the renovation of the Correctional Centre is 70% completed and this will give a sort of relief from challenges often experienced during rainy season.
The statement further stated that during a courtesy call on His Excellency, Emmanuel Gabriel Udom, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Hon. the Committee informed that the visit to the state is in line with Presidential mandate to decongest the Custodial Centers nationwide.
This according to Justice Bello, is to meet with the international standard of criminal justice and human right standard.
In his response, Governor Udom Emmanuel said that the state had in the past supported with the construction/rehabilitation of some Correctional Centres in the state namely; Ikot Ekpene, Ikot Abasi and Uyo Correctional centres.
He promised to establish Skill Acquisition Centres in the Correctional Centres in partnership with Private Organisations.