PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has granted pardon to the former governor of old Bendel State, the late Prof Ambrose Alli and a foremost nationalist, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro.
Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola broke the news yesterday at a world news conference held at the headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) in Abuja.
He said three other persons also benefitted from the presidential amnesty. They were ex-Lt.-Col. Moses Effiong, Major E. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
Aregbesola added that the gesture meant that they were never convicted.
He said that 2,600 inmates at correctional centres across the country were also set free by the President in exercise of his pardon, clemency and prerogative of mercy as enshrined in the Constitution.
Aregbesola, who was flanked at the conference by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, said the gesture was based on compassion, which was one of the hallmarks of the current administration.
He added that 70 inmates of the Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja would also be released immediately after the briefing as all the process of their documentations would be carried out to signify the launch of the release of other inmates at other correction centres.
The minister, who said the move was part of efforts by the Buhari administration to decongest the centres, urged the governors to follow suit by ensuring that those under their domains were pardoned.
Aregbesola said the presidential pardon followed recommendations to the President by a committee and the imperative of drastically reducing the number of inmates in custodial centres across the country due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
He said out of the total number of inmates, Lagos has 316, Kano, 287; Ogun, 289; Nasarawa, 105; Kaduna, 104; Edo, 176 and Adamawa, 216. Others are Delta, 140; Anambra, 84; Akwa Ibom, 76; Bauchi, 50; Borno, 21 and Enugu, 32, among others.
The minister, who explained the criteria upon which the inmates were set free, however, said those who committed violent crimes against the state such as terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and rape among others did not enjoy any amnesty.
Aregbesola said: “Using these criteria, a total number of 2,600 inmates spread across our custodial centres qualify to benefit from the amnesty. These include 885 convicts who could not pay their fines totalling N21.4 million, which the government will pay on their behalf to enable them get freedom.
“From this number, 41 inmates are federal convicts, two of which have been granted pardon. At this point, I am pleased to inform you that five ex-convicts recommended for presidential pardon have been so pardoned.
“They are the late Prof Ambrose Ali, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, ex Lt.-Col. Moses Effiong, Major E. J. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola. Prof. 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. He was convicted in the 60s of treasonable felony. Alli was convicted of enriching his political party in the Second Republic by the Buhari military government in 1985.
“I must thank and commend President Buhari for demonstrating great statesmanship by pardoning these people, who were part of the great Nigerian history. We will proceed from here to Kuje custodial centre to release the 41 in a symbolic gesture of the freedom that has been given to 2,600 inmates across the federation. The governors of the 36 states under whose jurisdiction the inmates were incarcerated will complete the exercise in line with our federal principle.”
The Minister of Justice, Malami (SAN), said the process of the pardon started in 2018, but that the COVID-19 outbreak added an impetus in way the correctional centres had to quickly decongest to avoid any form of problems therein.
Malami, who said the president was passionate about setting the inmates free, explained that the committee used interviews, observations and consultations to carry out its assignment on those eligible for the presidential amnesty.
Jigawa State Governor Muhammed Badaru Abubakar has released 74 inmates at correctional centres.
The governor, who briefed reporters at Aujara town in Jahun Local Government after the release of first batch of the pardoned inmates, said the decision was part of the government’s measures to decongest prisons and curb the spread of Coronavirus.