By Seun Adams
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has attributed the timely strategic and aggressive measures deployed by the Federal Government during the COVID-19 Pandemic since year 2020 as responsible for the success attained in curtailing the pandemic in the country especially in the Nigerian’s Correctional Centers (NCCs).
Aregbesola acknowledged that the initiative of the Ministries of Interior and Justice to secure presidential pardon and amnesty for some inmates while also recommending others to State Governments for release was helpful.
The Minister stated this in lecture he presented at the Third Annual Lecture on Economy and Security during COVID-19 at the Faculty of Arts, Ekiti State University, Ado -Ekiti, Ekiti State.
He commended the University and the Faculty for organizing this event which will remain memorable in the minds of Nigerians for a long time to come.
On the criteria used by the federal government to arrive at the selection of inmates to be granted the presidential pardon amongst others, he said are: old age, ill-health, convicts serving three years and above, who have less than six months to serve; inmates with mental health issues as well as those with options of fines not exceeding ₦50,000 who have no pending cases.
Aregbesola, said a total of 2,600 inmates spread across various custodial centres benefitted from the amnesty. These included 885 convicts who could not pay their fines totaling ₦21.4 million, stressing that federal government made the payment on their behalf to enable them get their freedom.
The Minister stated that federal government had on March 9, 2020, set up a Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, made up of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha as Chairman, the National Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, and other members, adding that to this effect, strategic high quality and sensitive equipment and structures were put in place to enable relevant agencies contain the disease in Nigeria.
“As is well known, the disease wreaked havoc on the population, latest figures from NCDC indicates that there have been 168,442 positive cases with 2,122 fatalities, some were very close friends and VIPs that I know and have worked with”, Aregbesola said.
The Minister noted that the pandemic had its effect in Nigeria but the government was able to mitigate and reduce the number of casualties. More enduring was that the pandemic further brought to the fore the capacity of the Nigerian people to be resilient in the face of adversity.
He said government too was quick to responses that contained the pandemic unlike other countries with advanced high technology, yet were worst hit like China USA and others.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of Ekiti State University, Prof. Edward Olanikpeku, commended the Minister describing him as a “golden fish” not only in politics but in every aspect of human endeavour.
The Chairman of the occasion and the Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, who noted that COVID-19 pandemic did pose great threat and also caused hardship on the citizens yet the country is gradually pulling through it safely as we strictly adhere to the laid down protocols.