A foremost nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, and Second Republic governor of the defunct Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Alli, both deceased, were among five persons President Muhammadu Buhari granted clemency on Thursday.
Others are Lt. Col. Moses Effiong, Major EJ Olanrewaju, and Mr. Ajayi Babalola.
The president also pardoned 41 inmates across correctional centres in the country.
The 36 state governors are also expected to grant pardon to about 2,600 inmates in their domains.
Also, N21.4 million is to be paid by the federal government as fine for 885 prisoners, who have failed to meet up with the condition needed for their release.
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, told reporters in Abuja that the pardon for the inmates was in furtherance of the federal government’s resolve to promote social distance culture in the correction centres in a bid to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The late Enahoro, an anti-colonial and pro-democracy activist, was involved in the old Western Region crisis of 1962 and accused of treason along with the late Premier of the defunct region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
He fled to England to escape trial but was extradited and convicted for the offense.
The late Alli was among the governors convicted by a military tribunal, set up by Buhari, for corruption when he was a military leader in 1984 after overthrowing the civilian administration of the then President Shehu Shagari.
The tribunal sentenced him to 100 years in prison for allegedly misappropriating N983,000 for a road project.
Aregbesola, at the press conference, said the about 250 facilities spread across the nation were inadequate to house the over 74,000 inmates in their custody.
He explained that the amnesty would not apply to inmates sentenced for violence or extreme offenses such as terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, rape, human trafficking, and culpable homicide.
He said: “We still have challenges with accommodation. Our about 250 facilities are inadequate to house the over 74,000 inmates in our custody presently. You will recollect that last month we turned the sod for the construction of a 3,000-capacity custodial centre in Abuja.
“A bigger issue that will positively affect accommodation at the correctional centres is the review of criminal justice administration with regards to the inmates. For instance, our last audit shows that a disproportionate number of inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs).
“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.
“In a symbolic gesture of the amnesty given to the 2,600 inmates across Nigeria, 41 federal inmates and 29 FCT inmates making a total of 70 inmates who met the above criteria will be released today(yesterday) from the Kuje Custodial Centre in Abuja.
“This amnesty will not apply to inmates sentenced for violent extreme offenses such as terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, rape, human trafficking, culpable homicide and so on.
“The governors of the 36 states under whose jurisdiction most of the inmates were incarcerated will complete the exercise in line with the federal principle,” he added.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in a statement yesterday, said the 41 inmates were among 176 persons interviewed by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) for pardon by the president.
The gesture, which is granted to deserving inmates and ex-convicts is said to be in line with the provisions of section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Malami, at the launch of the 2020 Presidential Pardon and Clemency of convicts in Abuja, said Nigeria had come up with measures to ensure speedy decongestion of the custodial centres towards the control of the COVID -19 pandemic.
Malami, in the statement by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu, explained that the process of coming up with the list of beneficiaries commenced in 2018 when the PACPM was inaugurated to advise the president on granting pardon/clemency to deserving inmates and ex-convicts in line with the constitution.
The AGF said the committee adopted the use of interviews, observations, consultation and reviewed documents from each of the correctional centres in Nigeria.
“Out of the 176 persons interviewed, a presidential pardon has been granted to two inmates. Mr. President granted clemency to 39 inmates as recommended by the PACPM out of which four inmates are from Kuje Correctional Centre.
In addition, Mr. President has also graciously granted pardon to five ex-convicts,” Malami said, adding that his office will take necessary steps to publish the names of the beneficiaries in the federal gazette in line with extant laws and regulations.
The minister said in furtherance of the efforts to combat COVID-19, Buhari requested appropriate authorities to visit all correctional/custodial centres within their respective states to identify and release deserving inmates.
“During the visit, there should be a conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent a substantial number of years in custody, especially those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody,” Malami said, adding that the president has requested that particular attention should be on the aged, especially those with terminal health issues, low-risk offenders as well as the payment of fines for convicts of lesser offenses with an option of fines, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.
Malami warned all the beneficiaries of the presidential pardon and clemency to desist from crime and criminality and be of good behaviour.
The minister also urged the public to welcome the beneficiaries and ensure that they are properly reintegrated into the society without any form of stigmatization or discrimination.