By Kamil Opeyemi
The Federal Government has revealed that a total of 4,068 inmates of correctional centers across the country have been released as part of efforts to decongest the centers.
Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, stated this at the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre, where 37 of the inmates were released.
He said that those being released were inmates who were unable to pay fines after their conviction by the courts.
“This is in our bid to decongest custodial centers and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders.
“As of yesterday, 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, thus necessitating this initiative we are witnessing today, which is targeted towards addressing the overcrowding conundrum bedeviling our custodial centers and their reformatory function.”
Tunji-Ojo said that the decongestion project is being done by the Federal Government, individuals, groups, and corporate organizations.
The minister said N585 million was raised by individuals, groups, and corporate bodies to facilitate the release of indigent inmates.
He explained that all inmates in custodial centers who have fines or compensations to pay, not exceeding N1 million, will benefit from the gesture.
“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.
“As well as equipping them with knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge and reintegration back into society.
“The training also covers their civic duties and responsibilities as citizens and strategies of refraining from re-offending,” Tunji-Ojo said.
According to him, the initiative is in line with the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
“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,” he added.
Tunji-Ojo commended the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOs) for providing the needed platform and mechanisms for safe and humane custody of inmates.
He said that the service had contributed to national security by ensuring the custody of deviants, thereby protecting society.
The minister promised that the federal government would support the service to function effectively and efficiently, especially in upscaling staff and inmates’ welfare.
He also appreciated all the stakeholders who facilitated the noble gesture.
Tunji-Ojo said every Nigerian has a stake in ensuring that offenders are properly reformed, rehabilitated, and reintegrated back into their various communities.
“By so doing, we will be promoting public safety and by extension, national security. It behooves on all of us, therefore, to ensure that we support offenders’ reformatory process.”
He also called on the larger society to receive the returning citizens with open arms and desist from stigmatizing them, so as not to drive them back to criminality.
Tunji-Ojo implored the released inmates to grab the opportunity to become better citizens and join hands to make Nigeria greater.
Earlier, the Controller-General of NCOs, Mr Haliru Nababa, urged the freed inmates to see the gesture as an opportunity to properly reintegrate themselves back into society and avoid criminal acts.
He thanked those who facilitated the release of the inmates and urged other good-spirited individuals, groups and corporate bodies to also join the noble effort to decongest the custodial centers.