By Victor Ogunje
In a desperate bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Ekiti State, the state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has ordered the release of 30 prisoners in the Ado Ekiti Correctional Centre.
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Olawale Fapohunda, made this disclosure in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday.
Fapohunda said: “The Ekiti State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy met on Wednesday, 15 April 2020 to consider applications for clemency from 45 prisoners in the Ado-Ekiti Correctional Centre.
“Council considered these applications on merit and recommended 30 inmates who fell within the category of inmates stated in the public notice published by the Ministry of Justice on Monday, 13 April 2020. Council considered four categories of prisoners.
“They include persons held in pre-trial detention, particularly those for minor or low-risk offences, women with children on pretrial detention or convicted for non-serious offences with less than 18 months to serve their sentences, at-risk inmates such as elderly prisoners or those with underlying life-threatening health issues and inmates convicted for minor, low risk offences particularly those who have 18 months or less remaining of their sentence to serve.”
Fapohunda said that Governor Fayemi has also directed that the released individuals should immediately be listed as vulnerable persons.
He explained that the release of the prisoners was in recognition of the danger inherent in the spread of Covid-19 within the correctional facility, saying the exercise will be a continuous one until the population is reduced to manageable numbers.
“All the released individuals went through a rigorous process of screening. Council in particular obtained a detailed briefing from officials of the Correctional Centre on the conduct of each of the beneficiaries,” he said.
Commenting on the fate of the large population of pretrial detainees in Ado-Ekiti Correctional Centre whose trials have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, Fapohunda said that he is presently in consultation with the leadership of the three branches on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the state on the possibility of the use of technology in facilitating criminal trials.
The Attorney-General said that the Ministry of Justice would publish a draft practice direction for remote hearing of criminal matters in the state’s Judiciary for the consideration of the Judiciary and lawyers in the state.