Covid-19: Buhari pardons 2,600 Nigerian inmates to reduce congestion

By Oluwaseun Sonde

President Muhammed Buhari has granted amnesty to two thousand, six hundred (2,600) Nigerian inmates across the federation to facilitate the decongestion of custodial center in spread of the coronavirus to improve the level of hygiene, suspension of social visits and extra-screening of new inmates among others.

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this at the Press Conference Announcing Amnesty to inmates of Custodial Centres held at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service on Thursday, following the observations, the Ministry had set in motion the machinery for the decongestion of the correctional facilities, which has now become imperative by the outbreak and continued spread of COVID-19.

He noted that the amnesty will not apply to inmates sentenced for violent extreme offences such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry, rape, human trafficking, culpable homicide and so on. “This should put paid to the wild and unfounded speculations and agitations that have been going around on the categories of inmates to benefit. “In arriving at amnesty, various issues were looked into and several options were considered. But the most pertinent and accordingly adopted are Old age.

This is for inmates that are 60 years old and above. Those suffering from ill-health that are likely to terminate in death. Convicts serving three years and above and have less than six months to serve. Inmates with mental health issues and Inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case”, he said. He added that beyond the exegesis of COVID19, government is exercising the prerogative of mercy in the firm belief that humans have innate capacity for goodness, even when they make mistakes which are precipitated by uncontrolled impulse, bad human companies, making bad personal choices and judgements and environmental pressures.

“Even when, as they would, find themselves in the firm grip of the law and are justifiably sentenced, society owes them a second chance to repent and purge themselves of bad behaviour, to be able to recover the best versions of themselves”. He appealed to the beneficiaries of this amnesty to make the best use of it. “The best way they can show appreciation is to truly repent and turn a new life and justify the confidence the government has reposed in them.

They should work hard to prevent recidivism by avoiding circumstances and persons that predispose them to re offending in order that the government and society will not regret granting them amnesty”. He called on correctional officers to work so swiftly and decisively in implementing this amnesty and then decongest the custodial centres within the shortest possible time.

“I commend your discipline, patriotism and sacrifice as you remain in the frontline in the battle against the spread of COVID-19 in our nation and especially in our custodial centres. “You must remain steadfast and give people hope that the disease will be defeated and normal life will resume as soon as possible.

Enforce the law and encourage the people to observe personal hygiene, maintain social distance and other advisory from the relevant agency and officials and stay at home while the lockdown lasts in places where it has been imposed”, he said.

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