On Thursday, the Federal Government announced the payment of ₦585 million in fines as part of its initiative to alleviate congestion in correctional centers across the country. The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, represented by Dr. Anayo Romanus-Nzekwe, an Assistant Director in the ministry, revealed this development during the release of 150 inmates in Kano.
Expressing concern over the plight of over 4,000 inmates held due to an inability to pay fines, Tunji-Ojo had previously emphasized the government’s commitment to settling these fines, estimated at around ₦500 million, to secure the release of the incarcerated individuals.
In line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, 150 inmates from the Maximum Security Custodial Centre in Janguza, Kano State, were set free on Thursday. The minister, speaking through Romanus-Nzekwe, stated that this release is part of the broader plan to free a total of 4,068 inmates nationwide.
“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.