We should not criminalize poverty by putting offenders in jail for many years-Bala

By Suru Charles

153 inmates incarcerated for various infractions in Bauchi state, were yesterday granted an executive pardon by the state governor, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed.

The efforts, according to the governor, are geared toward ensuring speedy dispensation of criminal justice.

Addressing the pardoned inmates the governor said the decision to pardon them was informed by a careful review of their records by the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which confirmed their determination to become good citizens that would be useful to themselves and the society.

Part of the criteria adopted by the Committee in coming up with the list of pardoned convicts, according to Bala, included old age, terminal sickness, convicts having less than three months to complete their jail term and those who were to pay their victim’s compensation of less than thirty thousand naira.

He said granting the pardon to the inmates was part of his administration’s resolve and determination to ensure the decongestion of correctional centres across the state.

His administration, as made known by him, will continue to care about the poorest and most vulnerable people, stating that it will ensure total justice reforms for equity and justice for all.

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Drumming that “the granting of State pardoned to persons in jail has been provided for by the Nigerian Constitution” the gesture, he said “is borne out of the need to make the Constitution as humane as possible and relieve the inmates of the stress and trauma associated with being in jail.

It is under the foregoing that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) has given me powers as the Chief Executive of the State to pardon inmates in Correctional Centres in the State.

Adding that “Suffice it to say that the aforementioned powers are exercised after due consultation with and on the advice of the State Committee on Prerogative of mercy. I have accordingly decided to pardon a total of 153 inmates serving various jail terms at Correctional Centres across the State. Similarly, the fines/penalties of the affected inmates have been wholly settled/offset to facilitate their immediate release from the Correctional Centres.

“I strongly believe that as an administration, we should not criminalize poverty by putting offenders to jail for many years, just because they could not pay fines or compensation of as little as N5000.00. Poverty should not be a crime” affirming that “Our justice system must treat both the rich and poor equally”.

Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed

Bala, who noted that his administration has recognised that “accessing justice can often be an expensive process fraught with barriers and delays” said, “from investigation to appeal, money is required.”

The governor who did not only grant them an executive pardon was also observed to have doled out the sum of N50.000 to each of the pardoned inmates.

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