For the release of 4,068 prisoners who were detained because they were unable to pay fines imposed on them by judges and magistrates in various detention facilities across the country, the federal government has begun paying N585 million in fines through the ministry of interior.
The aim of the program, according to Interior Minister Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, is to reduce the number of inmates in the country's correctional facilities. He announced the payment of fines and compensations at the Kuje Correctional Facility in Abuja yesterday.
Speaking during the release of 37 inmates from the Kuje center, Tunji-Ojo stated that the innovation was to make correctional facilities humane in order to properly reform and rehabilitate them, in addition to decongesting them.
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.”
He added that N585 million had been raised by philanthropic individuals, organizations, and corporate entities as part of their corporate social responsibility, even though he acknowledged that the project was his idea.
According to Tunji-Ojo, the gesture is eligible for all prisoners in custodial centers with fines and/or compensation of less than N1 million. He revealed that a stipend was given to the released prisoners to help them return to their communities.
Haliru Nababa, the Controller-General of Corrections, spoke earlier and praised the gesture, calling it noteworthy and highly commendable because it highlights the minister's passion and dedication to maintaining the ongoing reforms in the service.
He acknowledged that the ministry of interior's single initiative has set an admirable example for people, businesses, and other stakeholders to follow.