COVID-19: Gov Yahaya of Gombe pardons 28 inmates to fight spread

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As part of the efforts to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gombe State government has pardoned 28 inmates just as it intends to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates considering that physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.

The development followed discovery from available records that the inmates’ populations at the various custodial centres across the state presently are housing inmates beyond their capacities while 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.

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A press release by Zubair M. Umar, Esq. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Gombe State contained that, “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”.

He added that “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”, the commissioner added.

The State Chief Law officer added that “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”.

According to him, the recommendation was made taking into consideration the persons serving three years (3yrs) and above with less than six months to serve and have been of good behaviour, Persons suffering from a terminal illness; and young persons (16 years and below).

He said that the governor duly considered the recommendations of the Advisory Council and accepted them and has pardoned the twenty-eight persons recommended for pardon and 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 175.

Meanwhile, in its determination to curtail the spread of the infectious COVID-19 among people of the state, Gombe State government is to produce over one million pieces of face masks for distribution to people across the state, especially the less privileged free of charge.

This was disclosed by the Chairman of the State Rapid Response Task Force on COVID-19, Professor Idris Mohammed while receiving a donation of locally made supporting items from the Gombe State office of the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) on Wednesday.

He said that plans are underway to make it mandatory for everyone across the state to wear face mask but that his committee will ensure the items are made available before the policy takes effect.

The Task Force chairman also said that already the face masks are being produced and will be made available as soon as they are ready in a couple of weeks.

He appreciated the NYSC for identifying with the state government at this trying time, adding that the gesture will significantly help the state government in attaining its plan of reaching every household with face masks and hand wash items.

The NYSC state coordinator, Florence Yaakugh while presenting the items said that the Corps members in Gombe State have benefitted much from the state government as such the state deserves much from the NYSC, especially at this trying time when the entire world is engaged in the fight against the deadly virus.

She further stated that NYSC accords priority to a skills acquisition programme, hence the youth corps members in the state took advantage of the scheme to produce locally made items that will complement government’s effort in fighting the pandemic.

Items presented included 120 units of hand sanitizer, 160 packs of facemasks and 60 pieces of handwashing soap as contained in a statement by Ismaila Uba Misilli, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the Governor.