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Governors pardon over 500 inmates to ease prison congestion


Governors pardon over 500 inmates to ease prison congestion

In a significant move to alleviate prison congestion in Nigeria, governors from various states have pardoned a total of 536 inmates across 240 custodial centers between January and August 2023.

The inmate population in Nigerian Correctional Service facilities stood at a staggering 80,883, as reported on their official website. Out of this number, 55,257 inmates were awaiting trial, while 25,626 were convicted.

Governor Umaru Bago of Niger State took the lead on June 12 by granting clemency to 80 inmates in different correctional centers. He also approved the immediate payment of their fines to facilitate their reunion with their families.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, followed suit on June 2, approving the release of 49 inmates from various correctional facilities across the state.

Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State announced the release of 49 prison inmates on May 30, while former governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, showed compassion on May 28 by pardoning eight convicts on death row and 13 others sentenced to life imprisonment.

On May 27, Yobe State Governor Mai Buni pardoned 115 prisoners selected from various correctional centers across the state. 

Meanwhile, on May 26, former Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello pardoned 24 convicts, including some already sentenced to death. He also paid fines totaling N20 million for 80 other inmates, securing their freedom.

Former Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje exhibited a similar gesture on April 22, granting clemency to 43 inmates serving various jail terms across the state.

In March, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, personally intervened by releasing 45 inmates during her visits to the correctional centers in Ikot Abasi, Eket, Ikot Ekpene, and Uyo.

Ganduje again stepped in on March 7 by pardoning 12 inmates on death row, and at the beginning of the year, on January 1, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State granted state pardons to 18 inmates across various correctional facilities within the state.

Abubakar Umar, the Spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service, who spoke to PUNCH emphasized that the issue of awaiting trial inmates falls within the jurisdiction of prosecuting agencies and trial courts, stating, “The issue of awaiting trial inmates has to do with the prosecuting agency and the trial court. We do not prosecute or hear cases.” 

Kabir Adamu, a security expert and Managing Director of Beacon Consulting Limited, expressed his perspective on the matter, noting that these pardons by governors play a crucial role in decongesting custodial centers. 

He added that it is vital to establish checks and balances to ensure that the objectives behind these pardons are not abused.

The wave of clemency granted by governors has provided hope for hundreds of inmates seeking a second chance at life outside the prison walls, while simultaneously addressing the issue of overcrowded correctional facilities in Nigeria.

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