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COVID-19: Interior minister seeks amnesty for inmates, laments congestion of prisons

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COVID-19: Interior minister seeks amnesty for inmates, laments congestion of prisons

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has called for immediate decongestion of all the Correctional Centres in the country as a measure to ensure that the Coronavirus disease, does not find its way into any of the Centres.

He said the ministry would make a representation to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the need for state governors and Chief Judges to consider granting amnesty to deserving inmates.

Aregbesola made the call during an emergency meeting in Abuja on how to manage the Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated that the meeting was convened in response to the outcome of the meeting of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of COVID-19, noting that the safety of inmates, staff of the Nigeria Correctional Service and all Nigerians was of great concern to the government.

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The minister, according to a statement by the Director of Press in the ministry, Mohammed Manga, stressed that the need to ensure that the pandemic did not get into any of the custodian centres.

Aregbesola, therefore, called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice state Chief Judges, governors and other stakeholders in the justice sector to immediately identify measures to be taken for quick decongestion of the custodial centres across the country.

According to him, the number of those in the custodial centres across the country calls for quick response as they are more vulnerable to infection.

He added that the situation was further compounded by the huge number of Awaiting Trial Persons, which he said, was over 70 per cent of the inmates in the nation’s holding facilities.

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He called for an urgent need to find a way of trying the cases of the ATPs in the country to overcome the challenge of space in order to reduce the possibility of the virus getting into the facilities.

Earlier in his remarks, the Controller General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed, said that the country had a total of 244 custodial centres, 139 of which were main Custodial Centres and 85 Satellite Centres with a total of 74,127 inmates, including 1,450 female.

According to him, only 21, 901 have been convicted while 52,226 are awaiting trial.

The Controller General added that overcrowded facilities posed a serious threat to the inmates at this time of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic if adequate steps were not taken to address the situation.

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Also in his remarks, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami called for proper profiling of all inmates in the various facilities across the country with a view to having a joint arrangement with the governors and states Chief Judges for a speedy trial.

On his own part, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Ishaq Bello, called for constitutional amendment to remove the Nigeria Correctional Service from the exclusive legislative list to concurrent list.

He said that would aid easy administration of criminal justice system and decongestion of custodial facilities across the nation.

Nigeria Update

Ebonyi govt shut offices after cabinet members test positive for Coronavirus

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David Umahi

The Governor of Ebonyi state has ordered the immediate closure of all government officers after cabinet members tested positive for coronavirus.

Ebonyi Governor David Umahi has given instruction that all government offices in the state be closed with immediate effect for decontamination to begin.

This became necessary after some Executive Council members tested positive for coronavirus.

Umahi gave the directive in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Orji Uchenna Orji.

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He expressed concerns over the increasing cases of coronavirus in the state, which stands at 75 out of the over 3,000 sample tests conducted.

Although he did not give the names of the cabinet members who tested positive to the virus, the Governor described the situation as disturbing.

He noted the positive cabinet members are receiving treatment and all in stable conditions.

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The government offices, he directed, will be shut from Thursday, June 4- Wednesday, June 10 to allow for decontamination.

“All civil servants shall work from their respective homes within this period but shall leave their phones open to respond to official imperatives.

“All Exco members and Government officials, especially of the Ministries of Finance and Budget, are advised to undergo COVID-19 test within this seven days period.

“The Governor further advises that during this period of close down of Government offices, all workers, especially from the two Ministries aforementioned, should go into self-isolation.

“All site operations shall, however, remain open, but must be in strict observance of COVID-19 protocol.”

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COVID-19: Lagos Catholic Archdiocese opposes continued closure of churches

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The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev Alfred Adewale Martins, on Wednesday, opposed the continued closure of worship centres by the state government.

The Archbishop in a statement by the archdiocese’s Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr Anthony Godonu, called on the Lagos State Government to ease the restriction on religious gatherings in the state.

Martins was reacting to a statement by the state government through its Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr Anofiu Elegushi, who on Tuesday said the ban on religious gatherings had not been lifted.

He wondered why it was concluded that the virus could spread at places of worship when people gathered in markets, motor parks and banks.

Martins stated,

“There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is real, and we all feel concerned that the numbers are rising. However, we know also that the virus will be with us for some time and more testing will reveal more infected persons but at the same time the truth is that life must go on. We believe strongly that churches as institutions are better able to exert control of situations and maintain discipline among their faithful than most other institutions.”

“The argument that we can pray in our individual houses and God will hear our prayers is true but it is also true for us as Christians that gathering together to worship is our heritage and practice arising from the Holy Bible. It was in the gathering of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit came down upon them(Acts.2:1); the early Christians gathered together in private homes for prayers and the breaking of the Bread(Acts 2:46) until the number became too large to handle in private homes and it became necessary to have Church buildings.

“If Christians were willing to suspend their right to gather in Church buildings for the sake of common good at a time when all gatherings of people were suspended, it is unfair and unjust for government to restrict gatherings for worship when other gatherings are being allowed. Anyone who argues that gathering to worship is not essential as it is to eat and get money from the bank, obviously does not understand the spiritual, emotional, and psychological soothing that Christians get from gathering together to worship.

“In any case, are we saying that it is more dangerous for people to gather to worship than it is to gather for banking and trading or that it is gathering for worship that is responsible for the spread of the virus?”

He said the archdiocese considered as fair, the position of Lagos State Government that it would approve a set of guidelines and monitor adherence to them.

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Martins stated,

“The monitoring is even more easily done in churches than in markets and motor parks or other places where the virus can even be more easily spread. This “volte-face” of government gives the impression that the position of Christians is considered secondary and of no consequence in the affairs of the state.”

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Three-year-old, his father and three siblings contract coronavirus in Imo

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A toddler has tested positive for coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic in Imo State.

The chairman of the committee on COVID-19 in the state, Prof Maurice Iwu, who confirmed the development while briefing newsmen in Owerri, the state capital, gave the boy’s age as three.

Iwu, a former national chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC], said that apart from the three-year-old, his father and three of his siblings tested positive for the pandemic.

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The professor of pharmacotherapy said that seven active cases of coronavirus were being Isolated at the Federal Medical Center in Owerri.

He disclosed that the state government was giving special attention to the three-year-old.

Iwu said

“Let me tell our people again to keep observing all the protocols associated with this pandemic such regular washing of hands under running water, use of alcohol-based sanitizers, social distancing and regular wearing of face masks”

He said that the committee in partnership with the state government and other relevant stakeholders in state were engaging the people of the state on the best ways to defeat the virus.

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He appealed to church leaders to adhere to the safety measures and protocols in tackling the pandemic.

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