A woman held at the Abakaliki Prisons for allegedly stealing N400 cocoayam 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, NHRC, on the outcome of its investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings of some inmates of the Abakaliki Prisons, during the August 18 attempted jail break.
The Chairman of the NHRC, Professor Ben Angwe, while revealing the pathetic condition of inmates of the prisons, mentioned the case of the woman, who was in the prison with her two children, as 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. According to him,
“we saw very pathetic cases. We saw a woman with two children in the prison accused of stealing cocoyam worth N400. They gave her difficult bail conditions, which required two sureties, who are on Level 16 in the civil service. “You can imagine somebody, who was accused of stealing N400 worth of cocoyam; what access will she have to a Grade 16 official of government?”
A visibly displeased Umahi summoned the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Augustine Nwankwaegu, for a briefing and, thereafter, directed him to ensure that the woman was released same day. According to him, the Governor said:
“Holding that woman in prison is an unnecessary punishment. Attorney-General, you will have to follow the state Comptroller of Prisons and secure her release. Send your people to surety the woman and let her leave the place. Get people on Level 16 to do so.”
Angwe had, 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. Angwe said:
“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? “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.”
He described the condition of the Abakaliki Prisons as very poor.