Four people have been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly stealing Covid-19 vaccines marked for prisoners and selling them to the public, authorities said Tuesday.
The suspects took more than 1,000 doses made by China’s Sinovac from the prisoners’ quota, offering them to buyers in the capital Jakarta and in North Sumatra’s Medan city for around 250,000 rupiah ($17) each.
The four arrested included a doctor at a prison in Medan and a local health official, police said. They could face a life sentence if convicted under Indonesia’s anti-corruption law.
“One of the suspects brought the vaccines to Jakarta where we also uncovered some locations providing the service,” North Sumatra police spokesman Hadi Wahyudi told AFP Tuesday.
Indonesia has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and it is rolling out a massive vaccination programme for many of its nearly 270 million people.
Citizens get shots at no cost.
But tens of millions are still waiting for their jabs, with limited supplies prioritised for frontline health workers and other high-risk groups — including the inmates at Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons.
The country’s prison system is notorious for poor conditions and rights groups have warned about the risk of coronavirus outbreaks in jails across the archipelago.
The arrests come after a separate vaccine scandal in North Sumatra this month, when police said they found health workers at Medan’s airport were recycling cotton swabs from Covid-19 tests by washing and repackaging them.
The scheme could have affected thousands of passengers tested at the airport, they said.
Indonesia has officially reported more than 1.7 million cases of coronavirus and nearly 50,000 deaths.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has ordered the release of 12 convicts in celebration of the New Year 2021.
This is an exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 212 of the constitution and on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy.
According to a statement issued on Friday by the governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, the pardoned convicts comprises of 10 people who were serving sentences of three years and above, with six months or less to serve.
At least 1,993 inmates are at large following the attack on two Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Custodial Centres in Edo State, the Federal Government has said.
Mr Mohammed Manga, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Interior, gave the figure in a statement on Tuesday.
He explained that at the last count, 1,993 inmates escaped from the correctional facilities in Benin City and Oko.
According to the government official, the attackers freed the inmates who are in legal custody and looted the centres, including the weapons in their armoury.
“They came in large number, bearing dangerous weapons and attacked the officers on guard duty. They were unmistakable on their mission, which was to force the cells open, free the inmates and carry out other nefarious activities,” he said in the statement.
He added, “This is to assure Nigerians, especially Edo State residents, that in conjunction with other security agencies, we have commenced the tracking and apprehension of all the escaped inmates before they do any harm.
“Anyone who notices any person or persons that might have escaped from the custodial centres should, as a patriotic duty, inform the nearest security agency.”
Manga, however, noted that the situation had been brought under control while security in and around the custodial centres across the country had been beefed up.
He added that the government has commenced an investigation into the jailbreak to determine the full impact of the attack.
Channels Television reported the jailbreak on Monday, coming at a time when #EndSARS protesters are demonstrating in various parts of the country.
The hoodlums who attacked the correctional centres were also said to have set three police stations ablaze in the course of the attack.
“Peaceful protest is legitimate and guaranteed as a fundamental right of citizens, operating as individuals and groups.
“However, attacking a custodial centre is a criminal act which detracts from the advertised objectives of the movement and capable of imputing impure motives to its drivers,” said Manga who condemned the attack.
He described custodial centres as high-security zones which have a primary duty of keeping custody of convicted criminals and awaiting trial suspects.
This, according to the ministry’s spokesman, comes before the reformation of the inmates and is integral to the justice administration system.
He stressed that the integrity of the custodial centres was fundamental to justice and inmates were expected to pay their dues to society, undergo reformation, and be reintegrated into society as changed-for-better persons.
Manga explained that when such a process has been disrupted in any way, the integrity of justice and societal renewal had been subverted, with dire and unimaginable consequences.
He insisted that most of the inmates held at the centres were convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes.
“Their being let loose gravely imperils lives and property. It is an unacceptable and intolerable threat to national and communal security.
“Government’s primary duty is to protect lives and property and keep the people safe. We shall not be shirking in our responsibility and we shall not disappoint the people,” the government official added.
He urged the #ENDSARS protesters to remain peaceful, embrace dialogue, screen their rank and file, as well as flush out those with criminal intents and steer clear of the custodial centres.
Afghanistan has ordered the release of up to 10,000 prisoners — mostly women, juveniles and sick people — in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said Thursday.
The move comes after an increase in local COVID-19 cases and as tens of thousands of Afghans return from neighbouring Iran, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.
President Ashraf Ghani’s decree was directed at women, young offenders, critically ill patients and inmates aged over 55, said Attorney General Farid Hamidi.
“This is a responsible decision to safeguard the health of the people,” Hamidi told a news conference.
“The decree is not for those who have committed crimes against national and international security.”
Prisons chief Ahmad Rashed Totakhail said between 9,000 and 10,000 inmates would be released over the coming 10 days.
UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to protect people held in overcrowded prisons and other enclosed facilities by releasing vulnerable detainees, saying COVID-19 “risks rampaging through such institutions”.
Sudan and Ethiopia have recently ordered the release of thousands of prisoners in an effort to slow their own outbreaks.
Afghanistan has officially recorded two deaths and 80 cases of coronavirus, but the true figure is feared to be many times higher as the war-torn country struggles to administer tests and screen the influx of people returning from Iran.
The upcoming prisoner release is unrelated to a prisoner exchange the Kabul government is currently negotiating with the Taliban as part of an effort to start peace talks.
The exchange of three senior Taliban prisoners for two foreign hostages announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been delayed, a spokesman said Saturday.
The Taliban prisoners “are still being held by the Afghan government. The inability of the Taliban to meet the conditions has caused a delay in the exchange,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi wrote on Twitter.
The government “will review the exchange process in light of Afghanistan’s national interests,” he said, without providing further details.
Ghani announced the exchange on Tuesday, saying the Taliban prisoners held at Bagram prison would be “conditionally” released.
They include Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, a notorious Taliban affiliate.
The two foreign hostages — American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks — were kidnapped by gunmen wearing military uniforms in Kabul in August 2016.
Ghani said that “their health has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists”.
He added that the release of the two men, both professors, would “pave the way” for the start of unofficial direct talks between his government and the Taliban, who long have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s administration.
Cameroonian authorities detained and tortured more than 100 prisoners, including suspected members of the country’s anglophone separatist movement, after a jail riot last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday.
The prisoners were taken to a military detention facility the morning after rioting broke out in the Central Prison in the capital Yaounde on July 22, the rights group said.
They were held incommunicado, beaten by gendarmes and guards and interrogated at gunpoint, it said, citing interviews with 14 detainees and several lawyers.
“The gendarmes put a piece of cloth on my nose and beat me. I was tortured like this, beaten badly several times on my legs and back,” HRW said, quoting a 37-year-old man from the city of Bamenda.
The rioting in Central Prison had been sparked by anger at overcrowding, living conditions and delays in bringing detainees’ cases to court, HRW said.
Many of those held there were suspected anglophone rebels, whose movement has declared a separate state for English-speaking rebels in the majority francophone country, its report said.
Nearly 2,000 people have been killed in violence between separatists and security forces in the anglophone regions since October 2017, according to an independent toll.
Others at the Central Prison were members of the opposition party, the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), according to HRW.
According to HRW, “at least 100” were taken to a facility called the State Defence Secretariat (SED), where the abuse occurred. They were held between July 23 and August 4, it said.
On August 3, the government said that 244 prisoners had been held in connection with the unrest.
Communication Minister Emmanuel Sadi said detainees were being held “in line with legal procedure, with the utmost respect for the law.” Several of them had been found in possession of knives, he maintained.
The Yobe State Governor, Mr Ibrahim Gaidam has pardoned five prisoners convicted and jailed for various offences in two prisons across the state.
A statement issued by his media aide, Abdullahi Bego said the state Chief Executive exercised his powers in pursuit of Sections 212 (1) of the 1999 Constitution.
He added that the governor acted based on the counsel given him by the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy headed by the Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ahmed Goniri.
“The pardons were granted based on the Prerogative of Mercy powers conferred on the governor by Section 212 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended,” Bego said on Sunday.
The pardon, he added was made possible “based on the recommendation of the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy chaired by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Ahmed Mustapha Goniri.”
Beneficiaries of the amnesty were: Mohammed Gidado, Adamu Ardo and Jibrin Mohammed all serving at the Potiskum Medium Security Prison.
Others included Kachallah Bukar currently serving at the Gashu’a Prison and Baba Isa serving his term at Potiskum Medium Security Prison.
The repentant prisoners are to be freed with immediate effect, according to the statement issued by the governor’s aide.
Addressing the freed inmates, he asked them to remain law-abiding and stay away from committing crimes that may likely lead them back to prison.
“I am pleased with this visit and I have learnt a bit more about the conditions of the prisons and inmates. This building in front of us was built since 1910.
“Rehabilitation of prisoners and training of inmates is very important to us and we would continue to invest more on this. I asked one of the inmates (released) how old he was and he told me he is only 19 years old.
“If we have people of 18 and 19 years in the prison, and there is no continuous training, then their lives will be completely destroyed. We will invest more in education and vocational training,” he said.
Kano Central Prison is one of the most congested detention facilities in Nigeria but Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State says the ongoing renovation of the facility is geared towards decongesting the prison.
Speaking earlier at the Emir’s palace while on a visit to the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, Buhari said, “I know Kano people are aware of the tremendous job we did on security and agriculture.”
He explained that the stability of the north and Nigeria is paramount and he is determined to make Nigeria a peaceful country.
After granting amnesty to the 500 inmates at the state’s central prison, President Buhari also commissioned the Panshekara by Madobi junction Underpass and the CBN Quarters by Hotoro road.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said prisoners across the country are doomed without getting continuous training to help improve their lives.
The President said this at a ceremony in Kurmawa Central Prison, Kano, where 500 inmates were either pardoned or set free.
“If we have people of 18 and 19 years in the prison, and there is no continuous training, then their lives will be completely destroyed.
“We will invest more in education and vocational training,” he said in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
President Buhari reaffirmed that prison reforms and decongestion would continue to receive prompt attention and be pursued with greater vigour by his administration.
He, however, lamented that some of the freed inmates were young and asked prison authorities to make every effort to make better citizens of prisoners.
He also emphasised the need for prisoners to receive proper care, support and rehabilitation to make them better citizens after serving their prisons terms.
“I am pleased with this visit and I have learnt a bit more about the conditions of the prisons and inmates. This building in front of us was built since 1910.
“Rehabilitation of prisoners and training of inmates is very important to us and we would continue to invest more on this. I asked one of the inmates (released) how old he was and he told me he is only 19 years old,” he said.
The 500 inmates granted pardon, including men and women, were drawn from various prisons in Kano State, including Kurmawa prisons which has 1,398 inmates as opposed to 750, the established capacity.
The President, who arrived Kano to a tumultuous welcome by the government and people of the state at the start of a two-day state visit, had earlier paid homage to the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.
At the Emir’s place, he recounted his fond memories of Kano, as a symbol of peace, trade, commerce and industry in Nigeria.
He said: “If there is a problem here, the whole country has a problem. I remember the industry and employment people get in Kano.
“Before the problem in the North East, I remember the number of articulated vehicles that leave this city to Maiduguri and the Cameroons; and the number of vehicles that come in from Chad and Niger, providing millions of jobs to Nigerians.
“A lot of people in Nigeria didn’t realise how much the instability in the North East have cost the people and the industry here.”
To this end, President Buhari assured all Nigerians that the fight against Boko Haram terrorists would be sustained, in addition to the positive trends in the economy and the fight against corruption.
“The three things we said in our campaign on security, economy and fighting corruption; nobody will be able to successfully disabuse the minds of Nigerians on our clear intentions for our country and our people,” he said.