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73 Year Old Grand Mother, 41 Others Regain Freedom At Calabar Correctional Centre

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Andy Esiet, Calabar 

Justice Akon Ikpeme

A 73 year old grand mother and 41 inmates have regained their freedom at the Afokang Correctional Centre, Calabar in Cross River state courtesy of the prerogative of mercy by the Chief Judge of the state,  Justice Akon Ikpeme after a review of their cases. 

It was excitement galore for the released frail looking inmates who felled on the ground rolling over and over thanking God and Justice Ikpeme for setting them free but those that were not so lucky went back dejected to their various cells.

Justice Ikpeme who took a tour of the  Correctional Centres across the state with a visit to the Calabar Centre on Thursday and Friday sitting for over four hours each day also set free one Ukeme Udoette who had been remanded in prison custody  for three years without trial  for stealing palm fruits worth N2,000.

Others released include Emediong James who had spent four years in jail awaiting trial  for stealing a power  generating set worth N70,000, one Udoh Bassey for stealing a phone worth N20,000 and had spent two years at the Calabar Custodian Centre.

Justice Ikpeme was moved at the pathetic case of Effiong, the 73 year old grand mother who was jailed for two years for forgery and after serving the sentence, she was released from the centre  but when her complainants saw her on the street of Calabar, they went back to the Magistrate and obtained an exparte motion and she was re-arrested and abandoned in prison.

Justice Ikpeme who said, “it is a dream fulfilled for me to  take a look at the cases of those sentenced and the ones pending trial to  review some where the need  arises” at the centres, frowned at such action and charged the Magistrates to be more circumspect before taking any action in cases brought before them.

Over 100 inmates at the Centre  with various charges arrested by the police ranging from “illegal nuisance” to “armed robbery, stealing of palm fruits, burglary, unlawful intercourse” and so on  were lined up by officials of the Centre before Justice Ikpeme who meticulously took time to go through each of the charges and at the end discharged 42 of the inmates either for “missing case files,  poor health or over staying in jail  beyond the stipulated time” they would have spent in jail to serve the sentence if convicted.

20 young men between the ages of 16 and 25 who were  arrested  at various times in Akamkpa, a community in the outskirts of Calabar and dumped in the Centre for long period on charges of stealing palm fruits from a .palm plantation were among those released.

While setting them free. Justice Ikpeme warned them to desist from such act saying, “you illegally entered a palm plantation that does not belong to you and steal palm fruits. I am giving you a second chance and if you are brought back here for stealing palm fruits or any other crime you would not be given the opportunity to be released but remain  here till your trial is completed.”

She commended the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade who gave approval and facilitated the tour of the centres in the state. 

The Controller of the State Correctional Centre Mr. Suwanu Kinane said the visit was a welcome development and assured that the centre would ensure that inmates that need to be taken to court are taken there on time.

He however complained that operational vehicles are few at the centres which is one of the main reasons inmates are not taken to court especially in communities of conflict.

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