The Federal Government has commenced the release of 4,068 inmates across the country in an effort to relieve overcrowding in the country’s correctional centers.
On Saturday, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, visited the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kuje, Abuja to commence payment of fines and compensations on behalf of inmates who were unable to settle their penalties.
The initiative is targeted at those serving jail terms due to their inability to pay fines or compensations owed.
“As of yesterday, the 17th day of November 2023, there were about 80,804 inmates in 253 custodial facilities nationwide, whose 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,” the minister said during the flag off of the initiative.
He added, “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,” he said.
In addition to securing their release, each freed inmate will receive a stipend to aid their reintegration into society. They would also be provided essential training to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to be productive upon discharge.
Tunji-Ojo urged communities to welcome returning inmates without stigma or bias, noting that rejection could drive them back to crime.
In his remarks, Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, emphasized the importance of the NCoS Act, 2019, in addressing the overcrowding issue.
The Act outlines non-custodial measures and authorizes the rejection of inmates when facilities exceed their capacity