From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The Federal Government has come up with explanation on why Presidential Pardon was extended to 2,600 prison inmates in the country.
It said before granting Presidential Pardon to the prison inmates many criteria were considered, including old age, ill-health, convicts serving three years and above, those who have less than six months to serve; inmates with mental health issues as well as those with options of fines not exceeding ₦50,000 who have no pending cases.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who disclosed this also stated that the timely, strategic and aggressive approach adopted by the Federal Government at the out break of COVID-19 pandemic last year has been acknowledged as successful strides that have positively impacted on the lives of inmates in Nigeria’s correctional centres.
He added that the initiative of the Federal Ministries of Interior and Justice to secure Presidential Pardon and Amnesty for some inmates while also recommending others to State Governments for release was helpful.
The minister stated this in Ado Ekiti during his presentation at the Third Annual Lecture on Economy and Security during COVID-19 at the Faculty of Arts, Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State. He commended the faculty for organizing the event, which he said will remain memorable in the minds of Nigerians for a long time to come.
In a statement signed by Mohammed Ali for Director Press, Aregbesola stated that ‘a total of 2,600 inmates spread across various custodial Centres benefitted from the Amnesty.
‘These include 885 convicts who could not pay their fines totalling ₦21.4 million which the Government paid on their behalf to enable them get their freedom. From this number, 41 inmates were Federal Convicts.’
According to the minister, the Federal Government had on March 9, 2020, set up a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, made up of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha as Chairman; National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, and other members who put in place strategic high quality and sensitive equipments and structures to enable relevant Agencies contain the pandemic in Nigeria.
‘As it is well known, the disease wreaked havoc on the population; latest figures from NCDC indicates that there have been 168,442 positive cases with 2,122 fatalities,some were very close friends and VIPs that I know and have worked with,’ Aregbesola said.
The minister noted that although COVID-19 impacted adversely on Nigeria, the Government was able to mitigate and reduce the number of casualties, stressing that the pandemic further brought to the fore the resilience of Nigerians in the face of adversity.
He stated that the Federal Government’s quick responses helped to contain the pandemic unlike other countries with advanced technology that were worst hit.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of Ekiti State University Professor Edward Olanikpeku commended the minister for honouring the institution’s invitation despite his tight schedule, describing him as a ‘Golden Fish’ not only in politics but in every aspect of human endeavour.