By; VICTOR DURUAMAKU, Owerri
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha has confirmed that about 170 indigenes of the state are in Prison Custody now awaiting execution by hanging, following their conviction by the court.
He added that he would put some factors into consideration including the culture of the people of the state before knowing whether to sign the death penalty of the individual culprits or not.
Okorocha gave the hint when the Attorney-General of the federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison Decongestion, Justice U.I. Bello visited him at the Government House Owerri with other members of the Committee on Tuesday.
He however, stated that he would carefully look at the cases of those concerned and know whether signing for their death would serve any good purpose.
The governor said “170 Imo people have been condemned to death. We shall take a decision. Whoever takes life should be ready for the consequences, but we shall look at the issues especially from our cultural perspectives before taking action. Where forgiveness should be the case, we shall also know. It is going to be a holistic approach”.
“With the setting up of the Committee for Prison decongestion it means President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing special things, including the Agricultural Revolution, the N-Power, and now the Prison decongestion. These are wonderful innovations by the President. This is the first time a government at the centre is taking steps to see our prisons decongested”.
“My administration is building a new Prison. The current Prison is over populated and no more qualified to be called a prison. It places the state at risk with jail break. And we decided to build a new prison. Imo is low in crime. Our environment is clean and low crime rate is always found in clean environment”.
In his speech, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar stated that the purpose of their visit was to review the cases of inmates in the prisons, and know those with minor offences and penalties like payment of fines.
He disclose that Okorocha had paid a huge sum for inmates that have fines to pay to regain their freedom.
Abubakar further explained that the committee started at the Federal Capital territory and got 128 inmates released. He also said that they went toKaduna and got 500 inmates freed and 800 inmates freed in Kano.
He said, “We came to Imo for the same purpose. Imo records the least inmates as result of the State’s low rate of crime. Another area of concern is the Awaiting trial inmates. About 70 percent of the prison inmates are awaiting trials. Governments at all levels should work in synergy. And the Imo governor has begun to demonstrate such political WILL by paying the fines of the inmates in prison unable to pay such fines, and building prison. We are going to review all the cases to properly situate the inmates”.
Chairman of the Committee and Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Justice Bello, in his remarks, regretted that some of the inmates had stayed in prison more than they would have served if convicted.
He stated that those who have stayed in prison beyond approved terms should be allowed to go. He describedImo State as Centre of Excellence and should work to maintain that excellence status.