The Nigerian Federal Government announced on Thursday that it had raised N585 million as part of efforts to settle fines for inmates and alleviate congestion in correctional centers across the country.
Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior, represented by Dr. Anayo Romanus-Nzekwe, an Assistant Director in the ministry, revealed this during the release of 150 inmates in Kano. The minister had previously expressed concern over the plight of over 4,000 inmates who were unable to pay fines, resulting in their prolonged detention.
The Federal Government said it would release a total of 4,068 inmates nationwide to decongest the custodial centers and create a more humane environment for the reformation and rehabilitation of offenders.
The 150 inmates released in Kano were those who had been sentenced to imprisonment with the option of fine or compensation but were unable to afford payment. The funds raised through generous contributions from individuals, groups, and corporate organizations, as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts, amounted to N585 million nationwide. In Kano State alone, N13.4 million was spent towards settling fines.
The initiative extended to all inmates in custodial centers with fines and compensation not exceeding N1 million.
In addition to their release, the freed inmates received training aimed at equipping them with functional skills and knowledge to enable their self-reliance upon discharge.
Each released inmate was provided with N10,000 to facilitate their return to their respective homes and communities. The Interior Minister urged the public to receive the returning inmates with open arms, avoid stigmatizing them, and contribute to their successful reintegration into society. He emphasized the importance of the initiative as a second chance for the inmates to make positive changes in their lives.
The Controller General of Corrections, represented by the Controller of Corrections for Kano State Command, commended the minister for securing the release of the 150 inmates. The controller emphasized the significant impact the gesture would have on the lives of numerous inmates nationwide.
In a similar development, the Chief Judge of Gombe State, Justice Halima Mohammed, also granted freedom to 185 inmates in custodial facilities across the state. The decision was made based on the recommendation of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee. The chief judge urged the released inmates to maintain good behavior and called on those awaiting trial to be patient while awaiting their court proceedings.