Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Twenty–five inmates serving various jail terms at Kwale Custodian Centre in Delta State yesterday regained their freedom following deliberate steps to decongest the centres to curb the spread of coronavirus in the state.
The state chief judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro, told newsmen in Kwale that the exercise was sequel to a directive from Abuja to the state government to release convicts, who have less than three years to serve their terms as a measure to curtail the spread of the ravaging global scourge. He explained that the beneficiaries fell into the category of those who were terminally ill, low risk offenders, 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 for amnesty.
The chief judge charged those pardoned to stay in their houses until the pandemic is over and when the state government will lift the lockdown order. He urged them to be law abiding and refrain from any criminal act that would bring them back to into custody.
The state controller of NCS, Ovie Friday Ezesobor, thanked the authorities for the releases, stating that 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 those pardoned expressed gratitude to the government for the mercy shown to them, promising to be of good conduct all the rest of their life.
Meanwhile, a national executive member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nelson Otunuya Enumah has called on the relevant authorities to provide custodial centres across the country with coronavirus test kits to test inmates and new suspects brought to prisons to ascertain their health status.
Enumah, who observed that without such medical examination conducted to isolate positive from negative inmates, said that the correctional centres could be a fertile ground for the spread of the virus, which could be counter-productive to the fight against the deadly disease.