Prisoners in Delta State enjoyed Happy Easter for once as 35 prison inmates in found favour with Gov Ifeanyi Okowa who granted full pardon to five of them serving various jail terms and ordered for their immediate release from prison.
Out of the 35 inmates, 30 of them were on death row as they were to die by hanging but the governor commuted their death sentences to life inmprisonment.
Those who were granted full pardon and release included: Livinus Ugwu who was sentenced to 20 years; Enebeli Dike, a condemned convict; Orji Pascal who was serving a 10 year jail term; Moses Agedah who was also on death row and Martins Ishiekwene, a prisoner sentenced to death on the 30th of November, 1998.
The approval done by the governor was in exercise of his Prerogative of Mercy under Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), stated a statement released from the office of the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrapkor.
The statement further stated that the governor acted pursuant to powers vested on him in exercise of his powers of prerogative of mercy in the spirit of the Easter celebration and took into considerations the several international and local pleas including those from Amnesty International.
Mrakpor explained that the governor based on the recommendations of the 7-Man Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy headed by Patrick Okpakpor that was inaugurated on 30th March, 2017.
Governor Okowa’s administration was irrevocably committed to better the lives of the people, including prisoners saying the Government had come out with various rehabilitation programmes through skills acquisition, trainings and other empowerment programmes geared towards their reintegration back to society, the statement added.
The prison authorities, the statement noted, have been advised appropriately in the warrants of pardon signed by the Governor, to immediately effect the warrants of release and commutal respectively.
Recently, the 7-man team on prerogative of mercy, led by Patrick Okpakpor, was conducted round the Nigerian prison facilities in Okere, by the deputy controller of the prison, Airiohuodion Sam who urged the federal government to interven in the crisis situation experienced by the prison by building additional facilities to accommodate condemned convincts.
Okpakpor and his team who were shocked at the dehumanizing situation of the prison, appealed to the federal government to have a second look into the issue of death sentence.
He expressed concern on the large number of persons on death row at the prison and called on the federal government to make adequate budgetary provisions to expand the already over stretched facility, originally designed and built to accommodate maximum of 307 inmates but now accommodates over 1,500.
According to him, the federal government should treat the issue of the prison decongestion as a national emergency.
He said that as a statutory body empowered to advise the governor in exercise of powers vested on him by the constitution in granting amnesty to prisoners, the council would make appropriate recommendations for clemency to deserving inmates on death row and others serving various terms of imprisonment by the governor.
He then emphasized that only qualified applications received by the council would be considered and forwarded for approval.