One hundred and fifty convicted inmates at the three Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Delta state have been granted amnesty by Delta State Government as part of measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ravaging the world.
This is as the State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro concluded visits to prisons in the state today.
Breakdown of the number shows that 49 inmates were released at Warri, 46 at Agbor, 27 at Ogwashi-Uku while 25 and 3 were pardoned at Kwale and Sapele Custodial Centres, respectively.
At Warri Custodial Centre, the Chief Judge was piqued by the unruly behavior of the inmates which made him to conduct the exercise at the reception.
The State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro cautioned pardoned convicts not to return to crime, saying that their release did not obliterate their criminal records.
Justice Umukoro gave the warning while addressing the inmates, pointing out that while the pardon granted them frees them from legal disabilities as citizens of Nigeria, such mercy does not erase the fact that they were ex convicts.
He enjoined the beneficiaries of the Governor’s prerogative of mercy to sit at home in strict adherence to the order of the State government geared towards curbing the spread of COVID-19.
The state number one Judicial Officer who stated that the exercise was in line with the Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Custodial Centres, disclosed that the directive mandated state governors through Chief Judges of each state to identify and release deserving inmates.
According to him, the criteria spelt out by the directive included inmates who were 60 years and above, those with mental health issues, inmates with option of fine not exceeding fifty thousand naira and have no pending case, children staying with their mother, convicted inmates with minor offences and convicted inmates who have spent 75 percent of their remaining sentence after remission.
Meanwhile, fresh convicts did not benefit from the pardon even though their names were on the list compiled from Abuja since they had just served a few months. A case in point was an inmate convicted to 11 years imprisonment but had served only 10 months.
The Chief Judge pointed out that releasing such inmates on mere ground of COVID-19 would be insensitive to feelings of the victims, state and society, stressing that the compassion was meant for only deserving convicts.
For those convicted for serious crime such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated offences which were inimical to society, Justice Umukoro asked such ones to apply to the Committee of Prerogative of Mercy for amnesty from the governor.