A cross section of the released inmates at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, Abuja on Saturday
The Federal Government has released a total of 4068 inmates in all the custodial centres across the country in an effort to decongest the custodial centres in the country.
Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, while flagging off payment of fines and compensations for inmates held on accounts of their inability to pay their fines, as penalties for their crimes, on Saturday at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, Abuja, said the gesture is in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
“As of yesterday, the 17th day of November 2023, there were about 80,804 inmates in 253 custodial facilities nationwide, which total installed capacity for the 253 Custodial Centres adds up to less than 50,000. This shows that our Custodial facilities are over-crowded; necessitating this initiative we are flagging off today, which is targeted towards addressing the overcrowding conundrum bedevilling our Custodial Centres and their reformatory function.
“Today, we flag off the release of a total of 4,068 inmates who are serving different terms of imprisonment in lieu of fines and/or compensation.
“Most of the benefitting inmates on the verge of their freedom are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fines and are languishing in custody.
“The sum of N585,000,000.00 was raised by philanthropic individuals, groups and corporate bodies, as part of their corporate social responsibility, for this purpose.
“Hence, all inmates in custodial centres who have fines and/or compensation not exceeding N1,000,000 are qualified and would benefit from this gesture. In addition, we are also providing each of them a stipend to enable them to return to their communities,” he said.
The minister said the inmates have been given the requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge.
He called on the larger community to receive the returning citizens with open arms, urging them to refrain from stigmatizing them as it could drive the released inmates back to crime.
In his address earlier, the Controller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, said the emergence of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Act, 2019 had brought a huge sigh of relief to the Service as it encapsulates a number of provisions geared towards decongesting the custodial facilities in line with global best practice.
“Sections 37 (1) and 12(4-12) of the NCoS Act, 2019 which authorizes non-custodial measures and rejection of inmates where a facility has exceeded its capacity respectively, are key among the available windows for ameliorating congestion.
“While we pursue full implementation of the Act, we have continued to adopt other short-term strategies like engaging the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) for Pro-bono legal services for inmates as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), for payment of fines,” he said.