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Bayelsa moves to decongest prisons over COVID-19 pandemic

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Governor mourns 42-yr-old Keniebi Okoko
The Chief Judge of Bayelsa, Justice Kate Abiri, yesterday directed judges to resume sitting immediately and give expeditious hearing to cases with capital punishment whose offenders are currently remanded in correctional centres across the state.

This comes as she freed eight inmates at the facilities of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Okaka and Yenagoa. 

While five of them, who were awaiting trials on minor cases, were released unconditionally, the other three got reprieve on health grounds.

Justice Abiri also ordered accelerated hearings of cases involving bailable offences whose culprits had been detained.

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Advising the pardoned prisoners to turn a new leaf, the CJ lamented that the beneficiaries had been remanded beyond the years they would have serviced if convicted.

She reiterated that the state judiciary was committed to the decongestion of the prisons to contain the spread of the endemic COVID-19 in the state. 

The beneficiaries were later handed handouts to aid their transportation, while food items were donated for the upkeep of those still in detention. 

In the meantime, Governor Douye Diri yesterday expressed shock at the passage of businessman and philanthropist, Keniebi Okoko, who died on Tuesday after a failed surgery at a Lagos hospital.

Describing the late 42-year-old as an Ijaw icon, pillar and astute businessman, the governor said: “Bayelsa, the Ijaw nation, and indeed Nigeria, had lost a man with great potential whose philantropism and impact as a young politician will be greatly missed.”

Okoko was the son of the former president of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and one-time lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Kimse Okoko.

While commiserating with his family, aged parents, the Obunagha community of Gbarain clan in Yenagoa Local Council of the state, Diri recalled how Okoko was a co-contestant in the September 4, 2019 governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and made an impressive showing.

In a statement by his acting Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Daniel Alabrah, the governor stated: “As a fellow aspirant in the course of the PDP governorship primary, I got to know him quite well. He always presented himself as a patriotic, intelligent, gentlemanly, courteous and devoted Christian. He was always passionate about the prosperity of our state. 

“I was therefore not surprised when I emerged winner of the primary election, Keniebi showed great sportsmanship by immediately congratulating me and collapsing his political structure into mine and worked energetically to ensure our victory.”

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