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100-year-old death-row inmate seeks pardon

SEEKING PARDON: Paul and Celestine Egbunuche (Photo credit: GLOBAL SOCIETY FOR ANTI-CORRUPTION

CELESTINE EGBUNUCHE - often referred to as Nigeria's oldest inmate - is seeking a pardon amid a campaign for his release, BBC Africa reports.

The centenarian has spent 18 years in jail after being found guilty for organising a murder.

Celestine was found guilty alongside his 41-year-old son Paul, who maintains that they're innocent.

According to BBC Africa, they were detained in June 2000 and eventually convicted and sentenced to death in 2014.

Paul rarely leaves his father's side and has been his primary carer since his health began to deteriorate in prison. These health problems include diabetes and failing eyesight.

"The only thing I'm using to manage him is food, unripe plantain, and they [officials] give him some drugs," said Paul.

"When I wake up in the morning, I will boil water and bath him,"he added. "I'll change his clothes then prepare food for him. If they open up [the cell] I'll take him out so the sun will touch him."

Paul said the other inmates sometimes help him care for his father and that many of them want his father to be released.

Talks of a release began after a photo of Celestine and Paul went viral of them celebrating his 100th birthday on August 4. A local paper did a story about him turning 100 in jail, and subsequently sparked a debate about the length of time Nigerians spend on death row.

Franklin Ezeona, president of the Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC), a non-governmental organisation that brought Egbunuche's case to the public and has been petitioning for his pardon, BBC Africa reports.

"If the man was the father of a governor or a minister, I don't think he would still be in prison," concludes Ezeona. He hopes that Egbunuche's case will prompt the government to review other cases and shine a light on the justice system as a whole.

"It will be good for the correctional system. It will show that with good behaviour, the government can give you a second chance. Everyone deserves a second chance."

Celestine is now awaiting approval from Governor Rochas Okorocha to move forward with the pardon.

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