BROADCAST BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE ON THE OCCASION OF EXERCISE OF HIS POWERS OF PREROGATIVE OF MERCY AS PART OF MEASURES TO CURB THE SPREAD OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Citizens and residents of Kogi State,
I greet you.
I wish to start this broadcast by reminding us that the novel coronavirus disease or CoviD-19 is not an automatic death sentence and that we are better off responding to it with caution rather than fear.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reached both developed and developing nations since it first appeared in China in the last quarter of 2019. Both the ailment and the virus which causes it known as the novel coronavirus or SARS-COV2 are yet to be fully unraveled and curbed by science.
Latest updates indicate that as of today Wednesday, 20th May, 2020 the Covid-19 outbreak has spread to 213 countries and territories, with a total of 5,004,136 persons infected worldwide out of which 1,961,385 have recovered. Sadly, 344,990 have died. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Nigeria has recorded 6401 cases with 192 persons dead and 1734 recovered.
To the Glory of Almighty God alone, Kogi State has not recorded any case of COVID-19 and we are doing our best to keep it so. We are grateful to the doctors, nurses and all categories of medical professionals who are in the frontlines of containing this and other diseases – both in our State and in the country. We appreciate their sacrifices and will continue to motivate them as available funds and resources will permit.
The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled extraordinary steps by nations and territories to slow or halt the spread of the disease. One of such steps is the deployment of applicable mechanisms in the administration of criminal justice system, including the Prerogative of Mercy.
The Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) administers the nation’s Correctional Centres as a core responsibility. A Correctional Centre as the name implies is expectedly a place where persons convicted of crimes are sent for the purpose of reformation and rehabilitation.
This noble aim demands collaboration between the sundry stakeholders, especially government at all levels. One of the thing we must do now is help the Service stop the Covid-19 disease from running amok among inmates, which is likely to be exacerbated by the perrenial problems of overcrowding.
Kogites may wish to recall that on some occasions in the past, convicts of various categories have been recommended to me for pardon and commutation of sentences respectively by the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, which recommendations I approved as I considered appropriate at the material times.
As a result, several individuals have been given second chances to become useful, even outstanding, members of the society. I am glad that till date our officers have not reported a relapse into crime by any of the individuals we have verified, assessed and released in the past.
In order to curtail or totally avoid the spread of Covid-19 in the Nigerian Correctional Services facilities in our state and across the country the Administration is embarking on this exercise once again to reduce the number of inmates in custody. This step has become imperative to reduce overcrowding in our Correctional Services in compliance with the social and physical distancing policies which are the new paradigms in the era of Covid-19.
Accordingly, this current exercise takes cognisance of the protocols of prevention for the pandemic and thus broadens the scope of beneficiaries. It also necessitates the exercise of our prerogative of mercy to a larger group of internees than usual. In all cases, we took scrupulous steps to make sure that only persons who meet the lawful criteria are considered.
The Kogi State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, acting in consonance with the provisions of the Kogi State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy Law, 1995 visited several Correctional Services in some States of the Federation where condemned convicts, those serving life sentences and other categories of convicts are kept. A careful scrutiny of the applications of the convicts, supporting documents and testimonies given by the Officials in Charge of the various Correctional Services clearly point at the fact that some of the convicts deserve to be given another chance in life.
Consequent on determinations as to the suitability of beneficiaries for the current exercise, recommendations are in four categories as follows:
Those who were sentenced to death, have spent considerable number of years in custody and have long records of good conduct during incarceration which suggests reformation of character and a determination to live within the confines of law and order and who were therefore deemed qualified for pardon and release.
Those whose death sentences are to be commuted to life imprisonment.
Those who either have 1 (one) year or less to the end of their sentences but who are deemed qualified for pardon by testimonials of good conduct from custodial officers, among other considerations.
Those who have served part of their sentence and whose conduct and character qualify them to have their sentences reduced.
In consideration of the foregoing and fully cognisant of the overriding public health and societal objectives, I, Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, under and by virtue of the powers conferred on me by section 212 (1) (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) in exercise of my powers of the Prerogative of Mercy, do hereby and on this…….day of May, 2020, pronounce and declare in the manner hereinafter rendered:
That the under listed convicts serving sentences in Correctional Services situated in Kogi State who either have 1 year to end of sentence and/or whose conduct qualifies them for pardon are hereby granted pardon and should be released forthwith, to wit:
John Sunday Damilola
Yusuf Ahmed Tijani
Usman Ilu Rago
Emmanuel Joseph Jashi
That the Sentences of Convicts Sentenced in Kogi State serving in Custodial Centers situated in Kogi State are hereby ordered to be reduced:
Jibrin Ibrahim Babangida
That the sentences of the following convicted inmates who refused to abscond or escape from Koton Karfe Custodial Center, Kogi State after its perimeters were breached during a flooding disaster on Monday the 28th day of October, 2019 be reduced:
Rabiu Ibrahim Alolo
That the following convicts who are serving their sentences in various Custodial Centers across the country are hereby granted pardon:
Oko Correctional Centre, Benin Abdulkareem Musa.
Kaduna Correctional Centre,
Jos Correctional Centre, Suleiman Isah
Warri Correctional Centre, Jimoh Shaibu, a.k.a Aruba
Lagos Maximum Security Correctional Centre, Adamu Saliu
That the following condemned convicts who are serving their respective sentences in various Correctional Centers across the country shall and do hereby have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment:
Kaduna Correctional Centre,
Jos Correctional Centre, Monday Abuh
Enugu Correctional Service, Shagari Yakubu
In addition to government’s roles in funding, infrastructure and policy of the Nigerian Correctional Service, there are times like this when a responsible government must apply her efforts to decongest the Service’s Centres by all lawful means in order to improve her capacity to deliver on the set objectives, hence this exercise.
The citizens also help in ensuring that society is crime-free with one of the most important of such roles being to facilitate reassimilation into society for prison inmates who have finished their sentences or are otherwise lawfully released.
Citizens are enjoined not to discriminate or otherwise maltreat released inmates. Persons released from prison are to receive every opportunity to restart life – and this involves offer of gainful employment where same is available.
All ex-convicts have an overriding duty to display value for their liberty by shunning crime in all its forms for the rest of their natural lives. Beneficiaries of this and other exercises of the Prerogative of Mercy have an extra duty to reciprocate this rare gesture by transforming into upstanding citizens no matter the obstacles which they may encounter after their release.
In concluding, I thank Kogites for their overwhelming confidence in and support for my Administration’s response to the novel coronavirus disease. No doubt if there is widespread outbreak of this disease in any of our Correctional Centres, especially those in our state, the danger to our society as a whole increases. This exercise of the powers of Prerogative of Mercy is thus another way in which we hope to assure our people that we will continue working to keep Kogi State free of the pandemic while contributing to the national fight against it.
In going about our daily lives within the confines of current realities, I enjoin all of us to continue observing prevention and distancing guidelines from all relevant agencies in the frontlines of the fight against CoviD-19, in particular the World Health Organization, the National Centre for Disease Control and our own Kogi State Ministry of Health.
Please stay strong, this too shall pass.
God bless Kogi State.
God bless Nigeria.
Governor of Kogi State
May 20, 2020.