Justice Sector Reforms: FG releases 4,068 prisoners

Justice Sector Reforms: FG releases 4,068 prisoners

Federal Government, on Saturday, kicked off the release of 4,068 inmates sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with the option of a fine and compensation in custodial centres nationwide in line with the justice sector reforms.

Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who performed the symbolic release of the inmates at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, Abuja, said the aim was to decongest custodial centres across the country and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place.


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Tunji-Ojo lamented that as of Friday, November 17, 2023, there were about 80,804 inmates in 253 custodial facilities nationwide, and the total installed capacity for the 253 custodial centres adds up to less than 50,000.

The Minister called for reform in the criminal justice administration to allow for speedy dispensation of justice, pointing out that a large number of inmates in custodial centres are awaiting trial.

He said the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, where 37 of the beneficiary inmates were released, has the installed capacity to hold 560 inmates, but currently, a total of 730 inmates are being held there, adding that out of the 730 inmates, 565 of them are awaiting trial.

He said the figure showed that the custodial facilities are overcrowded, necessitating the commencement of the initiative, which is targeted towards addressing the overcrowding associated with custodial centres and their reformatory functions.

“Today, we flagged off the release of a total of 4,068 inmates who are serving different terms of imprisonment in lieu of fines or compensation,” he stated.

He explained that most of the inmates granted freedom are indigents who could not afford to pay their fines and have been languishing in custody.

He added that N585 million was raised by philanthropic individuals, groups, and corporate bodies for the purpose of releasing the inmates.

The Minister added, “Hence, all inmates in custodial centres who have fines or compensation not exceeding one million naira 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.”

Tunji-Ojo charged the benefiting inmates to see their freedom as a second chance to make things right again, advising them to stay away from crime and saying all must join hands with President Tinubu to make Nigeria a great nation.

He disclosed that the Federal Government ensured that the beneficiary inmates were given requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge, stressing that the government was not just releasing them to their fates.

He noted that the training also covers their civic duties and responsibilities as citizens and strategies for refraining from reoffending.

“In line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s mantra of renewed hope, the benefiting inmates have been given a second opportunity to get back on track and contribute to the ongoing development of our dear nation,” he said.

While reiterating the commitment of the current administration to the welfare of inmates, the minister said the Federal Government is poised to transform custodial and non-custodial facilities to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and good correctional practices.

He added that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) has contributed to national security by ensuring the custody of deviants, thereby protecting society, and promised that the government would support the service in ensuring that it functions effectively and efficiently, especially in the area of upscaling staff and inmates’ welfare.

He warned against stigmatising the inmates released. He called on the larger community to receive these returning citizens with open arms and refrain from stigmatising them, as it could drive them back to offending the law, which would further endanger society.

He further urged the inmates to abide by the instructions and training they had received while in custody and to be good ambassadors in their communities.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its custodial facilities,” he said

While commending all stakeholders who facilitated the noble gesture as their corporate social responsibility, he added that they all have a stake in ensuring that offenders are properly reformed, rehabilitated, and reintegrated back into their communities.

The Controller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, said the release of the inmates was in line with the commitment of the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to sustain the ongoing reforms in the paramilitary services in the country.

He noted that overcrowding of inmates has been a perennial challenge faced by the NCoS, saying the federal government gesture would go a long way to decongest the custodial centres across the country.

Nababa listed plumbing, building construction, soap-making, artwork, carpentry, fishery, poultry, and tailoring, among others, as some of the skills acquired by the inmates while in the facility, adding that it would enable them to reintegrate effectively into society.

One of the beneficiaries, who gave his name simply as Sunday from Anambra State, said he has been incarcerated for about 15 months since he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with the option of a N500,000 fine.

Sunday, just like other inmates, was thankful to the Minister of Interior for coming to their aid in securing their release from custody.

“I thank the Minister for what he has done to free us. I can assure him and the President that we will not go back to committing crimes any more. All of us are happy today,” Sunday said.


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