By Dave Okpogadie, Asaba
Delta State government has granted amnesty to 150 inmates in the three custodial centers of the Nigerian Correctional Service across the state as part of measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) ravaging the entire globe.
Chief judge of the state, Justice Marshal Umukoro granted the amnesty as he concluded his visit to the centers, Breakdown of the number shows that 49 were released at Warri, 46 at Agbor, 27 at Ogwashi-Uku while 25 and three were pardoned at Kwale and Sapele Custodial centers, respectively.
At the Warri Custodial Center, the chief judge was piqued by the unruly behavior of the inmates which made him conduct the exercise at the reception.
Justice Marshal Umukoro cautioned pardoned convicts not to return to crime, stressing that their release did not obliterate their criminal records.
The CJ 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 are 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 the COVID-19.
The state number one state judicial officer, who stated that the exercise was in line with the Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Custodial Centers, disclosed that the directive mandated the state governors through chief judge 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 N50,000and have no pending case, children staying with their mothers, convicted inmates with minor offences and convicted inmates who have spent 75 percent of their sentence term 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 who had served only 10 months.
The CJ pointed out that releasing such inmates on mere ground of COVID-19 would be insensitive to the feelings of their victims, state and society, stressing that the compassion was meant for only deserving convicts.
Those convicted for serious crimes such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated offences which are inimical to society, Justice Umukoro charged to apply to the Committee of Prerogative of Mercy for amnesty from the governor.