By Alex Enumah
Forty-one inmates across correctional centres (prison) in the country have regained their freedom, as a result of the pardon granted them by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 41 inmates were among 176 inmates interviewed by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy
(PACPM) for pardon by the president.
The gesture, which is granted to deserving inmates and ex-convicts, is said to be in line with the provisions of section 175 of the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Their release, which demonstrates a commitment of the Buhari administration to the decongestion of correctional centres in the country, is also part of measures at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), made this known on Thursday during the flag-off of the 2020 Presidential Pardon and Clemency of convicts at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Kuje, Abuja.
Malami, who spoke on behalf of President Buhari, recalled that Nigeria has succeeded in putting in place urgent measures to ensure speedy decongestion of the custodial centres towards the control of COVID-19 pandemic which he described as part of demonstration of President Buhari’s sincerity and commitment to decongest the overcrowded Nigerian correctional centres.
In a statement by his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, the AGF explained that the process of coming up with the list of beneficiaries commenced in 2018 when the PACPM was inaugurated to advise the president on granting pardon/clemency to deserving inmates and ex-convicts in line with the Nigerian Constitution.
The AGF said that in carrying out the assignment, the committee adopted the use of interviews, observations, consultation and relevant documents called for and received from each of the correctional centres in Nigeria.
“Out of the 176 persons interviewed, presidential pardon has been granted to 2 inmates. Mr. President granted clemency to 39 inmates as recommended by the PACPM out of which 4 inmates are from Kuje Correctional Centre. In addition, Mr. President has also graciously granted Pardon to 5 ex-convicts,” Malami said, adding that his office will take necessary steps to publish the names of these beneficiaries in the Federal Gazette in line with extant laws and regulations.
The minister said that in furtherance to the efforts to put COVID-19 under control, President Buhari requested the appropriate authorities to embark on a visit to all correctional/custodial centres within their respective states to identify and release deserving inmates.
While in a similar move, 29 deserving inmates in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also received pardon. It is also expected that governors of the 36 states would grant pardon to about 2,600 deserving inmates in their domains.
“During the visit, there should be conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent a substantial number of years in custody especially those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody,” Malami said, emphasizing that the president has requested that particular attention should be on the aged (especially those with terminal health issues), low risk offenders as well as the payment of fines for convicts of lesser offences with option of fines, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.
The statement noted that Malami warned all the beneficiaries of the presidential pardon and
clemency to desist from crime and criminality and be of good behaviour.
He said: “You must rewrite your individual life stories. You must rebuild broken walls in your dignity by diligently using the experience and various empowerments and trainings received while in custody positively to better your lots to the fullest.”
The minister also urged the communities and general public to open their hands of fellowship in receiving the beneficiaries and ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society without any form of stigmatization or discrimination.
“I have confidence in their selection process, and if Mr. President has pardoned them, you too can forgive them. I urge well-meaning
Nigerians to do something positive to better their lots and livelihood including offering them jobs. It is expected that proper reintegration
will strengthen their individual resolve to live in line with acceptable social norms and values,” Malami said.
He reiterated the need to identify new measures to consciously reduce the number of inmates in Nigerian custodial centres beyond the control of COVID-19 scourges.
“We must primarily look into the cases of persons awaiting trial and individuals convicted of minor offences for which fines were the
penalty. It is particularly worrisome that about 70% of the inmates in Nigerian prisons are persons awaiting trial and canvassed for the use of non-custodial measures in line with the provisions of the ACJA, 2015 and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019,” he added.