The federal government has set in motion a move that would see to the release of 4,068 prisoners serving varying sentences in Custodial Centres around the country with the option of fines and compensation.
According to Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Minister of the Interior, the initiative was “in our bid to decongest Custodial Centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place”.
The minister spoke at the flag-off ceremony of the initiative on Saturday at the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, where 37 prisoners were released with the option to pay a fine.
He said: “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, 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 at the verge of their freedom are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fines, and are languishing in custody.”
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On the project which was the minister’s initiative, supported by his friends and corporate organisations spread across the country, Tunji-Ojo said N585 million was raised by philanthropic individuals, groups and corporate bodies, as part of their corporate social responsibility, for this purpose.
He disclosed that all inmates in Custodial Centres who have fines and/or compensation not exceeding N1 million are qualified, and would benefit from the gesture.
He said in addition, “we are also providing each of them a stipend to enable them return to their communities”.
The Minister added: “Suffice it to mention at this point that we are not just releasing them to their fates; we have given them requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge. The training also covers their civic duties and responsibilities as citizens, and strategies of refraining from reoffending.
“In line with the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu mantra of Renewed Hope, the benefitting inmates have been given a second opportunity to get back to track and contribute to the ongoing development of our dear nation. It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its custodial facilities. It is based on this premise that this administration is poised to transform custodial and non-custodial facilities to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and good correctional practices.”
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