From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Fifty prisoners who were on death row have been granted pardon by the Benue State State Governor, Samuel Ortom in line with prerogative of mercy.
The lucky prisoners included 34 who were on death row and awaiting execution as well as 15 others whose death sentence were commuted to life imprisonment even as another convict had his 21-year jail term reduced to 15 years.
State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mike Gusa who disclosed this while speaking with newsmen in Makurdi on Friday said some of them are indigenes of Benue state while other some are Nigerians who committed criminal activities; were arrested, tried and convicted in Benue.
He said the decision to pardon the convicts was reached following the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy and the Federal Government’s policy on the decongestion of correctional centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some of them (convicts) appealed their sentences, but their appeals have failed, but His Excellency in his compassionate way has decided to invoke the provisions of the Constitution to give these citizens of Nigeria; these citizens of Benue reprieve and granted them amnesty, so that they will be released and granted a second chance.
Gusa said the gesture was one of the humanitarian steps that the Governor has taken as one who is committed to the rule of law, due process and passion for humanity and in compliance with Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution.
“He signed a warrant to grant amnesty to some of the convicts who have been awaiting execution, because they have been sentenced to death and were transferred to Jos Correctional center.
“Out of this number, 34 convicts who were sentenced to death and awaiting execution are now released. We also have 15 convicts who were actually sentenced to death, but now have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
“And we have another convict who has his term reduced from 21 years to 15 years imprisonment.
“So, in total 50 convicts are affected by this act of magnanimity and act of compassion by His Excellency, the executive governor of Benue state.
“The Governor’s approval is based on the recommendations that was made by the management of the correctional centers in Jos, Owerri and Sokoto, where you have these inmates.
“They made recommendations on the conduct of these convicts, while they served their jail terms and awaited execution. They testified to the effect that they (convicts) have changed from their bad ways and have become good citizens
“And it’s based on these recommendations that the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy sat and considered individual cases and made recommendations to His Excellency who then gave the approval.
“This (amnesty granted the convicts) is also in consonance with the federal government’s policy on decongesting the Correctional centers as a result of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is the desire of the federal government that correctional centers should be decongested and it’s in consonance with this, that the Governor decided to exercise his powers under the Constitution to give a new lease of life to this convicts,” Gusa stated.