(Francis Onyeukwu, NAN)
The Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), Anambra Command, says it has so far released more than 454 inmates from its custodian centres across the state in a bid to decongest prisons due to dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Emmanuel Nwakaeze, the state Controller of the Service disclosed this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka on Sunday.
He explained that 54 inmates with federal offences received presidential amnesty under the prerogative of mercy of the governor, while about 400 others were released on bail by the State’s Chief Judge from the four custodian centres in Nnewi, Onitsha, Ekwulobia and Awka.
Nwakaeze said the service presently has a total of 1720 inmates, adding ‘apart from the number already released, we are compiling a list of awaiting trial inmates that have stayed more than five years so as to release them in furtherance to decongest the four centres.
‘While this is done, my office has stepped up sensitisation campaign in all the centres with the aim to making the inmates being release to understand that it was God that gave them the opportunity courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I drum it into their ears that any of them who so benefit from the gesture must be of good behaviour because coronavirus pandemic does not occur every now and then,’ he said.
Nwakaeze, who gave reasons for the stoppage of visitors to Nigeria Correctional Service and Custodian Centres, explained that the action was in line with the directive of the Controller General of the Service, Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed to avoid the spread of coronavirus to its facilities.
‘Since the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus in our country, the management lined out measures to ensure the safety of inmates and very prompt among the measures was the stoppage of people from visiting the inmates in our custody.
‘Rather than allow people whose status cannot be readily ascertained, we now advise people to bring cash or raw food items for such to prepare and give to the inmates ourselves because that for us is better than to expose them to COVID-19 risk,’ he said.
He said, so far a number of personalities including Most Rev Valerian Okeke, the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, and Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, wife of Anambra State Governor etc. have donated food items to the inmates.
Nwakaeze did not dispel nor accept the report that the organisation now rejects fresh persons sent to their custodY, but simply said ‘we are abiding by health protocols to protect those already in our centres.’
He further said that the NCS authorities across the nation have beefed up its intelligence gathering department as well as fortified security around all the custodian centres with a view to preventing any attack or jailbreak.