By Amby Uneze
In line with the presidential directive on the decongestion of correctional centres in the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Hope Uzodimma has ordered the release of 36 inmates of Owerri and Okigwe Correctional Centres.
In a ceremony marking the formal release of the inmates, the Imo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, who is also Chairman, Imo State Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, Mr. C.O.C. Akaolisa, who represented the governor, said the idea behind the magnanimity is to decongest the Correctional Centres all over the federation and Imo State in particular.
He said those granted amnesty are inmates who have spent over 75 per cent of their period of convictions, those who are on six months of conviction, those who are sick and others with minor offences.
He added that those associated with capital offences such as armed robbery and kidnapping are not considered, as well as those that are on awaiting trials.
Akaolisa said that government gave each of the 36 inmates ₦5,000 as transportation fare and to enable them purchase critical coronavirus protective kits.
He, however, expressed dismay over what he described as “man’s inhumanity to man”, a situation where people in our society mete out injustice to their fellow citizens by incarcerating them, conniving with law enforcement agents, adding that such attitude was responsible for awaiting trials for a long time, involving over 2,000 people in Owerri Prisons alone, while only 600 are really convicted of one crime or the other.
The Attorney General said that soon, the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy led by the Acting Chief Judge of the state will pay a visit to the Correctional Centres to effect more releases of those on awaiting trial, adding that that is the essence of the signing of the Criminal Justice Law recently by Governor Uzodimma.
In his response, the Owerri Correctional Centre Comptroller, Mr. Chris Chukwuemeka Okoye, said the amnesty will go a long way in decongesting the centre that is meant to house 1,000 inmates only.
Okoye called on the judiciary to expedite action in the dispensation of justice and admonished the freed inmates to be of good behaviour by going back to engage in genuine business for survival and shun crime.
He appealed to the society to avoid stigmatisation of the released inmates as they have not only been corrected, but also have shown enough repentance and willingness to turn a new leaf
Expressing their gratitude, one of the lucky inmates, Mr. Ezihe Izuchukwu from Ogwa in Mbaitoli Local Government Area, who said he has been there since 2014 and he is the Catechist of the Correctional Centre, thanked God for using Governor Uzodimma to grant them amnesty.
He promised, on behalf of his colleagues, to be of good behaviour and good citizens of Imo State in particular and Nigeria in general.