COVID-19: Gombe Govt Taking Steps to Reduce Population of Prison Inmates

By Zubair M. Umar, Esq.

As part of the efforts to control the COVID 19 pandemic, the Gombe State Government intends to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.

From available records, the inmates’ populations at the various custodial centres across the State presently are housing inmates beyond their capacities and that the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.

Considering the above, on 26th March, 2020 we requested the State Comptroller of Correctional Services to come up with a plan to partner with the State Ministry of Justice and the State Judiciary in order to ease the congestion in the Gombe Medium Security Centre.

On 30th March, 2020, the Comptroller submitted a list of 300 inmates for consideration. After striking out the names of persons accused of rape and violence offences, we appealed to the Acting Chief Judge to direct some judges and magistrates to entertain bail applications for 174 inmates. At the end of the exercise, 115 were successfully released on bail from Gombe Medium Security Custodial Centre- the process is still on for the remaining 59 inmates.
Similarly, on 6th April, 2020 we requested the Comptroller to propose to the advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy names of persons who are eligible for His Excellency’s amnesty for the consideration of the Council. The Council during its meeting held on 22nd April, 2020, has received twenty nine (29) applications requesting for His Excellency’s pardon from persons who were convicted by various Courts for various offences in Gombe State.

After deliberations, the Council recommended twenty eight (28) persons for His Excellency’s clemency. These 28 persons were tried and convicted of various offences by the courts in Gombe State and were serving their sentences in the Gombe Medium Security Custodial Centre and other custodial centres of Bajoga, Billiri, Cham and Tula respectively
This recommendation was made taking into consideration the following:
i. Persons serving three years (3yrs) and above with less than six months to serve and have been of good behaviour.

ii. Persons suffering from terminal illness ; and
iii. Young persons ( 16 years and below).
The Governor duly considered the recommendations of the Advisory Council and accepted them.

Accordingly, the Governor has pardoned the twenty eight (28) persons recommended for pardon and he has signed the order of their immediate release from custody. They were equally taken back to their respective Local Governments by the Correctional Service.
It may be recalled that on 9th February, 2020 the Governor has pardoned 32 inmates across the State bringing the total inmates released to One Hundred and Seventy Five (175).
Dated 27th April, 2020.

Zubair M. Umar, Esq.
Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

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