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4,068 INMATES NATIONWIDE RELEASED FROM CORRECTIONS FACILITIES ..... As FG Moves To Decongest Custodial Centres, Pays Fines Of Beneficiaries

Dr Tunji-Ojo, Interior Affairs Minister at the flag off ceremony of payment of fines, compensation and release of some inmates at the Kuje Custodian Centre Abuja 

"The exercise is the bid of the FG to decongest Custodial Centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place." Tunji-Ojo.

"This sole nitiative by the Honourable Minister will go a long way in decongesting and improving the general condition of our Custodial Centres nationwide." Nababa, CG Corrections Service.

The Federal Government has approved the release of 4,068 inmates sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with option of fine and compensation inmates with options of fines from Custodial Centres across the country.

The flag-off of the event which was conducted by the Honourable Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, took place at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, Abuja on Saturday 18th November 2023.

According to Dr. Tunji-Ojo, the exercise is the bid of the FG to decongest Custodial Centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place.

The Honourable Minister revealed that "as at 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." He said.

He revealed that most of the benefitting inmates who were at the verge of their freedom, are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fines, and are languishing in custody. 

"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." He said.

"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.

He said; "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 re-offending.

The Interior Affairs Minister noted that, "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.

Dr. Tunji-Ojo, in his speech at the event, expressed his appreciation to the Controller-General of Corrections and Staff of the Nigerian Correctional Service for providing the needed platform and mechanisms towards the safe and humane custody of inmates. 

"The Service has contributed to national security by ensuring the custody of deviants, thereby protecting the society. This administration will support the Service in ensuring that it functions effectively and efficiently, especially in the area of upscaling staff and inmates’ welfare.

Tunji-Ojo also used the opportunity to appreciate all stakeholders who facilitated the event, describing it as a noble gesture and part of their corporate social responsibility to society.

He also appreciated members of the committee that responsible for executing the programme, saying; "We all have a stake in ensuring that offenders are properly reformed, rehabilitated and reintegrated back to their 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."

He also called on the larger community to receive these returning citizens with open arms, as he appealed that they should refrain from stigmatizing against them as it can drive them back to offending the law, which will further endanger the society. 

Addressing the benefitting inmates, the Honourable Minister asked them to see this as a second chance to make things right again. 

He advised them to stay off crime and criminality, and called on them all to join hands with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, to make Nigeria a great nation.
Speaking at the event, the Controller General of the National Corrections Service, Haliru Nababa described the occasion as a symbolic one.

Nababa stated that this sole initiative of the Minister for Interior is geared towards decongesting our custodial facilities and giving inmates renewed hope to be better citizens of Nigeria.
"The Nigerian Correctional Service is presently undergoing transformation as we have since set mechanisms to mitigate the problems of overcrowding in our Custodial Centres. The signing into law of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 is an elixir that has controlled this ugly phenomenon which used to be our major challenge. 
"The introduction of non-custodial sanctions such as parole, probation, community service, restorative justice, suspended sentence and so on, has diverted some of the offenders who would have been in custody. Through these measures, custodial facilities are freed of the numbers. There are other efforts which we are applying in decongesting our facilities such as encouraging regular jail delivery, pushing for clemency for offenders who qualify for it, and capacity building in terms of expansion of our facilities."
"Recognizing the business of reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of offender requires a multi-dimensional approach if it must be effective. Hence, we are open to synergy with good willing individuals, groups and bodies to promote the safe and humane custody of the legally interned.
"This noble initiative by the Honourable Minister will go a long way in decongesting and improving the general condition of our Custodial Centres nationwide." He said.
He urged the inmates benefitting from this kind gesture of the Honourable Minister of Interior to utilize this opportunity and turn a new leaf. 
"Remember that as you rejoin the various communities, all eyes will be on you to observe if you are really reformed. Ensure you conduct yourself in the best manner and shun any act that will lead you to your past lifestyles." Nababa concluded.

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