The Federal Government, on Thursday, said it had raised N585m towards the settlement of fines for inmates in a bid to decongest correctional centres across the country.
The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, represented by an Assistant Director in the ministry, Dr Anayo Romanus-Nzekwe, disclosed this on Thursday in Kano, during the release of 150 inmates, whose fines were settled by the Federal Government.
The PUNCH reports that the interior minister had repeatedly lamented that no fewer than 4,000 inmates were languishing in detention over their inability to pay fines.
Tunji-Ojo had promised that the Federal Government would clear the fines, estimated at about N500m, and free the inmates.
On Thursday, 150 inmates were freed from the Maximum Security Custodial Centre, Janguza in Kano State.
The minister, speaking through Romanus-Nzekwe, said the 150 inmates were among the 4,068 nationwide that the government intended to free in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
“The Federal Government wants to decongest custodial centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place.
“The released inmates were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with the option of fine and compensation and could not afford to pay their fines and are languishing in custody.
“The sum of N13.4m was spent in Kano State out of the N585m raised by philanthropic individuals, groups and corporate bodies, as part of their corporate social responsibility, for this purpose nationwide.”
He explained that all inmates in the custodial centres who have fines and compensation not exceeding N1m were qualified to benefit from the gesture.
“We have given the inmates requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge and skills for their self-reliance upon discharge,” he added.
Each of the freed inmates was given N10,000 to enable them to return to their various homes and villages.
The minister commended the Controller-General of Corrections and the staff of the Nigerian Correctional Service for providing the needed platform and mechanisms towards the safe and humane custody of inmates.
He called on the public, and communities to receive the returning inmates with open arms and refrain from stigmatising them as it could drive them back to committing crimes, which would further endanger society.
He urged the inmates to see the initiative as a second chance to make things right again.
“Stay off crimes and join hands with our father, President Bola Tinubu, to make Nigeria a great nation.
“Abide by the instructions and training you have received while in custody and be good ambassadors in your communities,” he said.
In his remarks, the Controller General of Corrections, Mr Halliru Nababa, commended the minister for securing the release of 150 inmates.
The CG, who was represented by the Controller of Corrections, Kano State Command, Suleiman Inuwa, said the gesture made a significant impact on the lives of numerous inmates across the country.
Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of Gombe State, Justice Halima Mohammed, also on Thursday pardoned and freed 185 inmates in five custodial facilities across the state.
The CJ said the release of the inmates followed the recommendation of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee.
Speaking on Thursday after three days of working visit to custodial facilities in the state, Justice Mohammed, said, “A total of 141 inmates were released from the Gombe Minimum Custodial Centre.
At the Billiri Custodial Centre, 10 inmates were released, 20 were released on bail, and 11 others were released because they were found to be of good behaviour. Making a total of 41 inmates to be released from Billiri Custodial Centre. At the end of the exercise, across five custodial centres in the state, a total of 182 inmates were released through the Criminal Justice Reform Committee.”
She, urged the ex-inmates to be of good character, in order to benefit from the good gesture of the criminal justice reform committee, calling those awaiting trial to be patient and be of good behaviour while waiting for their sentencing by the courts.
“Criminal Justice Reform Committee commends the Gombe State Government for supporting the committee’s exercise, which is geared towards decongesting the custodial centres,” the CJ said.
The Comptroller of the Gombe State Command of NCoS, Lawan Gusau, lauded the Chief Judge and the Criminal Justice Reform Committee.
“We are grateful for this exercise, and it is the first time a total of 182 inmates are being released because of the compassion and service delivery of Justice Halima Mohammed,” he said.