The Delta Government has granted amnesty to 150 convicts in the custodial centres of the Nigerian Correctional Services across the state as part of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Mr Timothy Agbaragu, the Public Relations Officer, Delta State High Court, disclosed this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Asaba.
Agbaragu said the amnesty was granted by the Chief Judge (CJ) of the state, Justice Marshal Umukoro.
He said 49 inmates were released from Warri Custodial Center, 46 from Agbor Custodial Centre, 27 from Ogwashi-Uku Custodial Centre while 25 and three were pardoned at Kwale and Sapele Custodial Centres, respectively.
Umukoro, while adressing the pardoned convicts, cautioned them not to return to crime, saying that their release did not obliterate their criminal records.
The CJ told them that while the pardon freed them from legal disabilities as citizens of Nigeria, such mercy did not erase the fact that they were ex-convicts.
He enjoined the beneficiaries of the Governor’s prerogative of mercy to sit at home in strict adherence to government order geared toward curbing the spread of COVID-19.
He stated that the pardon was in line with the directive of the Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Custodial Centres.
The CJ said that the directive mandated the state Governors, through the Chief Judges of the states, to identify and release the deserving inmates.
Umukoro said the criteria for pardon included inmates who were 60 years and above, those with mental health issues, inmates with option of fine not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case, and children staying with their mother.
He said that the convicted inmates with minor offences and those who had spent 75 per cent of their remaining sentences after remission were also included.
The CJ said fresh convicts did not benefit from the pardon since they had just served a few months, although their names were on the list compiled from Abuja.
He said releasing such inmates on mere ground of COVID-19 would be insensitive to the feelings of the victims, state and society, stressing that the compassion was meant for only deserving convicts.
He said that those convicted for serious crimes such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated offences inimical to society, should apply to the Committee of Prerogative of Mercy for amnesty.