A 65-year-old grandmother and her 15-year-old grandson jumped for joy on Wednesday as the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Abimbola, set them free from prison at Abolongo Correctional Centre, Oyo town, where they had been kept over alleged theft of two fowls.
The Chief Judge released the duo of awaiting-trial grandmother and grandson while exercising his prerogative of mercy.
Grandmother and grandson had been awaiting trial at the Abolongo Correctional Centre since December 2022.
The boy was alleged to have stolen the fowls and given them to the grandmother who also allegedly collected them for safe keeping.
Justice Abimbola noted that they deserved mercy because the boy is underage while the old woman is aged, sick and frail.
He admonished them never to return to theft or to the receipt of stolen items.
The Chief Judge released 72 other awaiting-trial inmates of the centre also on Wednesday.
Justice Abimbola explained that the exercise of the prerogative of mercy followed recommendations of the Oyo State Monitoring Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, led by him.
He said the committee considered cases and lists of inmates brought by the Correctional Centre by NGOs and Oyo State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association on prerogative of mercy.
He explained that age, health challenges and prolonged detention were the three major criteria considered in releasing the beneficiaries.
The Chief Judge noted that the exercise was also in tune with his power of release and prerogative of mercy to aid prison decongestion.
He remarked that the judiciary must ensure that prisons were decongested while the rights of citizens in detention were enforced.
“The power to arrest, detain or prosecute has its source from the law; we fear no one and we shall exercise our power according to the law,” he stressed.
Justice Abimbola urged judicial officers to be acquainted with the provisions of the Criminal Justice Law and to ensure that no one trampled on their rights.
In his remarks, Justice Ladiran Akintola of Oyo State High Court said the judiciary in Oyo State worked in synergy with various NGOs who would ensure that the released were reintegrated into the society.
Akintola said: “We had passionate considerations for deserving cases, including those who have stayed too long awaiting prosecution and afflicted with serious illnesses.
“They needed to be considered because it is only when they are alive that they can stand trial.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that among the 74 inmates released were other juveniles and many who were having various health challenges.
Some were charged with theft, house-breaking and rape among other offences.
Justice Abimbola had on Monday and Tuesday released 99 inmates from Agodi Correctional Centre, Ibadan.
The 74 awaiting-trial persons released from the Abolongo Correctional Centre raised the number released from the two centres to 173 inmates in the three-day exercise that ended on Wednesday.