By Victoria Onehi
The Minister of Interior Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has flagged-off the release of 4,068 inmates sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with option of fine and compensation in Custodial Centres nationwide.
This gesture is in the Federal Government bid to decongest Custodial Centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place.
At the release of inmates at the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kuje,today, the Minister said most of the benefitting inmates at the verge of their freedom are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fines, and are languishing in custody.
“As at 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.
“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 at the verge of their freedom are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fine.” he said.
Tunji-Ojo disclosed that the sum of Five Hundred and Eighty-five Million Naira only (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 One Million Naira only (N1,000,000.00) are qualified, and would benefit from this gesture. In addition, we are also providing each of them a stipend to enable them return to their communities.
The minister noted that inmates are not just released to their fates; but have been given requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge.
The Minister tasked every citizen to support offenders reformatory process. “We all have a stake in ensuring that offenders are properly reformed, rehabilitated and reintegrated back to our communities. By so doing, we will be promoting public safety and by extension, national security. It behoves on all of us therefore to ensure that we support offenders’ reformatory process.”Tunji-Ojo said.
Earlier,the Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service(NCoS) Haliru Nababa, noted that overcrowding in most of the Custodial Centres, especially those in metropolitan areas has been a perennial challenge to the Service. Hence, the payment of fine/compensation for indigent inmates with such options, is not only philanthropic but strategic in reducing the number of persons in custody.
Nababa urged alll beneficiaries of this kind and benevolent venture of the Ministry of Interior o be good ambassadors of the NCoS by not returning to the way of crime but rather, lead productive lives as responsible and law-abiding citizens. He urged benefitting inmates to see this as a second chance to make things right again.
One of the beneficiaries, Mike Audu appreciated the Minister on behalf of others.
“Before, we thought we were nobody. We thank the honourable minister that is showing concern about us and is going to make us go home. May God continue to bless him and direct him. We want government to continue to support us. “Audu said.