Umahi releases woman held in prison for stealing N400 cocoa yam


Umahi releases woman held in prison  for stealing N400  cocoa yam
A woman  held at the Abakaliki Prisons  for allegedly stealing cocoa yam worth N400 has been released on the order of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State.
Umahi   ordered  her freedom after being  briefed on Friday  by  the  National Human Right Commission on the outcome of its  investigation into the  extra judicial killings of some  inmates  of the  Abakaliki prisons during the August 18 attempted jail break.
A statement on Sunday  by the governor's Chief Press Secretary, Emma Anya, said the Chairman of the NHRC, Prof. Ben Angwe,  had reeled out  the pathetic  condition of inmates of the prisons, saying some of them had suffered to the extent that no amount of compensation would assuage the sufferings  they had passed through.
He mentioned some cases, including that of the woman, whom according to him, was in the prison with her two children apparently due to the  fact that she had no one to cater for them.
Angwe said when the woman was   arraigned in court, the judge granted her bail with two sureties who must be civil servants on Grade Level 16.

The NHRC  boss said, "We  saw  very  pathetic cases.  We saw a woman with two children in the prison acussed of stealing cocoa yam worth N400. They   granted  her bail on stiff condition. They gave her  difficult bail condition   which required two sureties who are on  level 16 in the  civil service.
'You can imagine somebody who was acussed of stealing N400 worth of cocoa yam. What access will she have to a grade 16 official of government?"
At this point, a visibly displeased  Governor Umahi summoned the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Augustine Nwankwaegu, for a tete-a tete and thereafter directed him to ensure that the woman was let go same day.
"Holding that woman in prison is an   unnecessary punishment. HAG (Honourable Attorney-General), you will have to follow the state Comptroller of Prisons  and secure her release today (Friday). Send your people to surety the woman and let her leave the place.Get people on Level 16 to do so."
Angwe,   while reading the report of the investigative panel also mentioned the case of an old man on awaiting trial for 11 years, saying his case was heart rending.
"There is also a case of an old man who has stayed 11 years in that prison without trial . If the  man  is discharged what amount of compensation will be adequate for someone who is kept without trial for 11 years?," he  asked.
"In fact, the old man is not the only one awaiting trial,  more than 80 percent  of the inmates in that prison are awaiting trial," Angwe stated.
He described the condition of the Abakaliki prisons as very poor but commended Gov. Umahi  for his commitment to the  promotion of  human rights.
The NHRC noted  that Umahi  was the only governor in Nigeria that had  rolled out welfare package for the elderly.

Responding, the  governor   expressed disgust over the dehumanising condition   of the  inmates and  recalled that he had during his visit to the prisons  after the botched jail break offered to partner the Federal Government in building a new prison in the state.
Expressing surprise that Abuja had not shown any commitment to the offer, he said he  was giving  the  federal authorities  seven days  to bring a building plan  after which the state would go ahead to construct a new prison to alleviate the suffering of the   inmates.
His words: "The condition   which the inmates are subjected to is very dehumanizing; it is so terrible and I had spoken to higher authorities. I   said  we jointly build a new prison. I was told that,that prison was built in 1913 or thereabout. And even if it was not 1913,it is  looking like it was done in 18th century.
"So it is  not where human beings can stay.  Some of those    that went mad could have been as a result of the condition of that place.  I know that  nobody will take  a mad person to the  prison.The  condition of  our prisons is enough to make a normal human being to have   mental derangement.
I am demanding that after  seven days, if we don't have a drawing plan, we will  go  to the land they  (prisons) have  and start building a new place for our people."
Umahi who said he   had  settled  the medical bills of some inmates wounded during the attempted jail break, directed that 15  inmates who the commission said  were suffering from mental illness  be given medical treatment
provided they are not armed robbers,murderers,kidnappers,cult members.
He  appealed to the NHRC to prevail on the United Nations to assist the state in the re settlement of displaced persons in the communities that had witnessed border crises and intra-communal wars.
The places are  Ezza/Ezillo in Ishielu LGA, Ochienyim  in Ikwo LGA, Igbagu/Iyala in Izzi LGA and  those  displaced in the Centenary City in Abakaliki.

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