NIGERIA FREES ELDERLY PRISONERS BEFORE POWER SHIFT
May 16, 2007: Nigeria has granted an amnesty to all prisoners over 70 and to those over 60 who have been on death row for 10 years or more, and will free them before the inauguration of the new president on May 29.
Information Minister Frank Nweke said the cabinet approved the measure as part of efforts to reduce crowding in Nigerian prisons, where the majority of inmates have never been convicted of any crime.
"Council today approved the release of all prisoners who have attained the age of 70 years and above, and those who are sentenced to death but are still waiting for the hangman in the past 10 years and have attained the age of 60 years and above," Nweke told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
He did not give the number of inmates in each category who would be freed.
President Olusegun Obasanjo is due to hand over power to Umaru Yar'Adua on May 29.
It is the first handover from one elected civilian president to another in Nigeria, but the April elections that gave Yar'Adua his mandate were so marred by vote-rigging that European observers said they were "not credible". (Sources: Reuters, 16/05/2007)