The federal government has through the ministry of interior commenced payment of N585 million fines for the release of 4,068 inmates held for inability to pay fines slammed on them by judges and magistrates in various custodial centers nationwide.
Minister of interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who flagged- off the payment of fines and compensations at the Kuje Correctional facility yesterday in Abuja, said the initiative was aimed at decongesting correctional facilities in the country.
Speaking at the Kuje center where 37 inmates were released, Tunji-Ojo said the innovation was to, aside decongesting custodial centers, make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation.
He said: “As at yesterday, November 17, 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 fines and are thus, languishing in custody.”
While acknowledging that the project was his initiative, he added the N585 million was raised by philanthropic individuals, groups and corporate bodies as part of their corporate social responsibility.
Tunji-Ojo 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 disclosed that the released inmates were also empowered with a stipend to enable them return to their communities.
Speaking earlier, the Controller -general of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, described the gesture as significant and quite admirable, as it emphasises the minister’s zeal and commitment to sustain the ongoing reforms in the service.
He acknowledged that this sole initiative of the ministry of interior has set a very laudable pace for individuals, corporate entities and other stakeholders to take after.
He said: “Overcrowding in most of our custodial centres, especially those in metropolitan areas has been a perennial challenge to the Service. 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.”