Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, granted amnesty to 2,600 inmates as part of efforts to decongest the Correctional Centres in the country.
Also pardoned were first republic politician, Chief Anthony Enaharo and former Governor of old Bendel state (now Edo and Delta states) Prof. Ambrose Alli (both late), Lt. Col. Moses Effiong, Major E.J. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, made the disclsure at a press conference on Abuja.
He said after the release of the first phase, the committee would continue to meet regularly to consider those who deserve the benefit.
The minister said criteria for the release included inmates that were 60 years old and above, those suffering from ill-health that are likely to terminate in death, convicts serving three years and above and have less than six months to serve, inmates with mental health issues, and inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case.
“Using these criteria, a total number of 2,600 inmates spread across our various custodial centres qualify to benefit from the amnesty.
“These include 885 convicts who could not pay their fines, totalling N21.4 million, which the government will pay on their behalf to enable them get their freedom. From this number, 41 inmates are federal convicts, two of which have been granted pardon, he said
Out of the said number, 70 inmates will be released from Kuje maximum custodial centre.
Aregbesola said mental health issues and inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and pending case were criteria used.
He said the amnesty did not apply to inmates sentenced for violent extreme offences such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry, rape, human trafficking, culpable homicide, etc.
This, he said has put to rest the wild and unfounded speculations and agitations that have been going around on the categories of inmates to benefit from the amnesty.
Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the UN had advised member states to reduce the number of inmates in custodial centres, in view of the social distancing policy aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus.
He described the launch of the 2020 presidential pardon as historic, adding that the process of selecting beneficiaries started in 2018.
Malami warned the beneficiaries to desist from crimes, urging the community to receive them without stigmatisation.
He lamented that 70 per cent of inmates in Nigeria’s Correctional Centres were awaiting trial.
Controller-General of NCoS, Ja’afaru Ahmed, said the service had not recorded any case of COVID-19.
He said that the exercise would go a long way in reducing the number of inmates in the service nationwide.
Similarly, Jigawa Governor, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar Badaru, has pardoned 74 inmates serving jail terms in the state prisons.
He said that the pardon came at a time that effort to curtail the spread of the dreaded corona virus pandemic must seriously pursued and that the government must play a leading role in the process.
The governor said he was consulting with other stakeholders to see to the additional release of more prisoners with minor or trivial offences with a view to protect inmates from possible spread of the disease.