President Muhammadu Buhari has granted Presidential pardon to a foremost nationalist, late Chief Anthony Enahoro and former Governor of old Bendel State, late Professor Ambrose Ali.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, disclosed this, on Thursday April 9th, 2020 during a World Press Conference, held at Nigerian Correctional Service Headquarters, Sauka, Abuja.
Aregbesola who was flanked at the event by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, his Information and Culture counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, said, the gesture was based on compassion.
He said that three other high profile persons who benefited from the Presidential pardon include ex Lt. Col. Moses Effiong, Major E.J. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
The Minister stated further that 70 inmates made up of 41 Federal offenders and 29 from the FCT were also released as part of efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration towards decongesting the custodial centres across the country.
“I am pleased to inform you that five-ex-convicts recommended for presidential pardon (by Buhari) have been so pardoned. They are late Professor, Ambrose Ali, Late Chief Anthony Enahoro, ex- Lt. Col. Moses Effiong, Major E.J. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola. Professor Ali was the Governor of the old Bendel State in the Second Republic (1978-1983) and a great progressive while Chief Enahoro was a foremost nationalist who moved the motion for Nigeria’s Independence.” The Minister said.
Ogbeni Aregbesola said that the welfare of all Nigerians including the inmates serving terms, awaiting trials or in the condemned criminals row, awaiting execution at the Custodial Facilities across the country, has been of utmost concern and a major policy thrust of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari since inception.
Ogbeni Aregbesola noted that the amnesty would not apply to inmates sentenced for violent and extreme of fences, such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry, rape, human trafficking, culpable homicide among others.
He said that in view of the observable overcrowding in about 250 Correctional Facilities in the country, the Ministry of Interior set in motion a machinery for the decongestion of the facilities, adding that it has now become imperative by the outbreak and continued spread of COVID-19 Pandemic globally.
According to him, “it is in this circumstance that the Ministry convened a meeting of relevant stakeholders, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service and the Director General Nigeria Intelligence Agency to look into this matter and propose measures that could be taken to reduce population at the custodial centres.”
He added that their meeting recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari to, among others, approve the report of the Presidential Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which was before him, in order to facilitate the decongestion of custodial centres, which he graciously approved, leading to the amnesty being announced today.
“In arriving at amnesty, various issues were looked into and several options were considered among which are old age- 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 those with options of fines not exceeding N50, 000 and have no pending case,” the Minister reiterated.
He further said that a total of 2,600 inmates spread across the 36 states of the Federation in various custodial centres qualify to benefit from the amnesty, including 885 convicts who could not pay their fines amounting to N21.4 million which will be paid by the respective state governments through the Judiciary Accounts to the States’ Treasury, to enable them get their freedom.
According to him, 41 inmates are federal convicts, two of which have been granted pardon, while 29 others are beneficiaries of the amnesty granted by the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, making a total of 70 inmates that were set free by President Muhammadu Buhari today. He disclosed that Lagos State tops the list of the inmates that are expected to be released by the state governments with a total of 316, followed by Ogun and Kano State with 289 and 287 while Bayelsa and Kwara has 8 and 10 inmates respectively, to place at the bottom.
The Minister called on the State Governments to expedite actions and follow the steps taken by the Federal Government towards ensuring the decongestion of Custodial Centres in the country.
He appealed to the beneficiaries of this amnesty to make the best use of it, saying the best way they can show appreciation is to truly repent and turn a new leaf and justify the amnesty granted to them by the government.
“They should work hard to prevent recidivism by avoiding circumstances and persons that predispose them to reoffending in order that the government and society will not regret granting them amnesty,” the Minister emphasized.
Earlier, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari has shown sincerity to decongesting the Custodial Centres, saying that this is just the beginning of the effort to reform and decongest Centres which was started in 2017.
He urged the beneficiaries to desist from such acts that led them into the Custodial facilities, saying “go and sin no more,” quoting the Scriptures.
Also speaking, the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed enjoined the inmates who just breath the air of freedom to seek their release as the done of a new day and begin life as a good upright, responsible and productive citizens.
In his remarks, the Controller General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed expressed delight of the Service to President Muhammadu Buhari for his support for the Correctional Service and the grant of Amnesty to inmates.
He noted that there has been no case of COVID-19 Pandemic in any of the Custodial Facilities in the country due to necessary measures put in place to prevent its getting in to the Centres.
Highlights of the event included the official flag-off of the amnesty exercise by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Chairman Presidential Committee on Prison Decongestion and Chief Judge FCT Justice Ishaq Bello, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Interior Barr. Georgina Ehuriah MON, Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice Mr.Dayo Apata SAN, Controller General of the Correctional Service Mr. Ja’afaru Ahmed as well as other heads of agencies of the Ministry and the signing of the warrants.
Director (Press & Public Relations)
For: Honourable Minister
9th April, 2020