Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has been urged to decongest the overcrowded correctional centres in the state by offering clemency to deserving inmates.
A lawyer and the immediate-past Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Warri branch, Mr. John Aruoture, made the appeal in a statement made available to journalists yesterday in Warri.
He said the step was necessary not only to decongest the centres, but to also give a second chance to some of the inmates who have truly and genuinely repented and are already role models even in the centres.
According to him, “Part of my practice involves the court-appointed pro bono publico defence of some indigent defendants being tried for sundry criminal charges.
“This aspect of my legal practice necessitates visits to some of the five custodial centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) located in Delta State. By virtue of these visits and resultant interviews of officials and prisoners, the need to decongest the overcrowded prisons and their over-burdened facilities have become pertinent.
“From available data, all over the country, there are approximately 74,127 inmates in the nation’s correctional centres. About 52,226 are pre-trial inmates, 21,901 are convicts, with some of these convicts on death row.
“While the federal government has embarked on the exercise of granting pardon/clemency to convicts of federal crimes, our beloved Delta State also needs to carry out a similar exercise for convicts of state crimes.
“This urgent need necessitated this passionate appeal to Your Excellency, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
“I appreciate that you need to create a careful balance between ascertaining the befitting inmates of the correctional centres that should be re-integrated into the society and the need to keep the society safe.
“However, there are inmates that have truly repented and others who have spent so much time in the correctional centres and could be said to have duly paid for their crimes.
“In addition, there are inmates who have become sources of positive influence/role models in many positive ways in the various correctional centres.
“Some of these inmates have become pastors and imams in the correctional centres and have dedicated their lives to the service of God and humanity.
“I humbly opine that such inmates may rightly be given a second chance and a window of opportunity to be re-integrated into the society.
The Warri-based lawyer, however, suggested that after release, the inmates should be given the mandate to report to an administrative body for a probation period of between six months and two years until it is evident that they truly turn a new leaf.