- FG plan release of 4068 inmates nationwide
- N585m to be paid as fines for the inmates as result of the release of the inmates
- Experts, analysts reveal security implications of the release
Recently, the Federal Government disclosed its plans to release 4, 068 inmates nationwide.
According to the report, the measure is said to be part of measures to decongest the nation’s correctional centres.
In any case, speaking at the flag-off ceremony in Abuja, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo said that the programme is targeted at indigent inmates who cannot afford to pay their fines.
The minister said that the Federal Government has raised N585 million to be used for the payment of fines to secure the release of 4,068 inmates across the federation.
According to him, the money was raised by corporate bodies and philanthropists for this purpose.
In his words, “today, we flag off the release of about 4,068 inmates. This is in a bid to decongest custodial centres as well as make them ready for proper reformation and rehabilitation to take place,” the minister said.
The minister said the initiative was targeted at inmates with fines and compensation that do not exceed N1m, stressing that the government’s commitment to transform custodial and non-custodial facilities was initiated to align with international human rights standards and effective correctional practices and was in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s vision.
Commending the Nigerian Correctional Service for their dedication towards humane custody and national security, he said the Ministry of Interior would further collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to tackle the swelling number of awaiting trial inmates in various detention facilities in the country.
In attendance at the meeting were Ministers of Justice and heads of anti-corruption agencies from all the countries within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On his part, the Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, commended the minister for the initiative.
However, since the planned release was announced by the Federal Government, it has continued to generate a lot of security, societal and economic concerns.
Nigeria is currently facing a lot of security issues ranging from Boko Haram insurgency in the north, Biafra agitators in the South East and Oduduwa republic supporters in the South West.
Many Nigerians are of the opinion that such massive release of unreformed, untrained and long-stayed criminals from the correctional centres nationwide will further aggravate already overwhelmed security situation in the country.
Catalogue of release of inmates in Nigeria in recent times
In 2020 former President Muhammadu Buhari has granted pardon and clemency to 2, 600 inmates of the Custodial Centres of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) as part of measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
The then Interior minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this known to news men.
While 70 of the inmates were released in Abuja, the rest were expected to be released by the state governors after convening a meeting of their individual committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
Also in January, 2021 the Federal Government released 4000 inmates from different correctional centres across the federation.
The then Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, gave reasons for the release of 4,000 inmates serving different jail terms in correctional facilities across the country.
Aregbesola, who addressed journalists shortly after inaugurating the 53 operational vehicles purchased for the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) in Abuja, said the inmates benefited from the federal government’s Amnesty Programme launched in April 2020.
However, in an exclusive chat with our reporter, Chief Chijioke Attah, a journalist and public affairs analyst stated that if due diligence is carried out in the implementation of the release, it will be of immense help to the nation. But if it is politicized, the nation will surely pay security price for it.
”It is a welcome development if executed with sincerity. This is because there are many people languishing in these correctional centres for little offences. Actually they shouldn’t be in the correctional centres in the first instance. But, because of their inability to pay fine or whatever, they have being languishing there. It is a welcome development on side because at least with the release these 4000 inmates, it will make the life of some inmates a bit bearable.
“As the names goes, these correctional centres are supposed to be where people go for correction of their behavior but the reverse is the case. This is because some innocent people go there and come out as hardened criminals. If it is not politicized, if due diligence is carried out to make sure that those who are going to be released are not hardened criminals, terrorists.
“We are looking at the release of those who committed minor offences but couldn’t pay little fines that were demanded of them by law, not hardened criminals that were released during Amnesty program in the north where Boko Haram fighters were released and integrated into the police force.”
Explaining further, Chief Attah, the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of foremost Nsukka News in Enugu state said that, “if this program is executed wrongly, it will have security implications especially in a situation where hardened criminals are let out of the hook and they will come back and terrorize innocent people in the society.
“Nigeria has been having security challenges for over a decade now and it keeps getting worse. You know the security apparatus of the government seems to be at lost as to how to tackle this mirage.
“It is a two-edged sword to the society. If it is done rightly, it will be of immense benefit to the society. But if it is done wrongly, the society will pay for it. The situation in the country is enough headache to unleash more security liabilities on the society.”
In any case, an Enugu-based legal practitioner, Barr. Daniel Ogbe in exclusive chat with our reporter said he is of the opinion that if the program is executed fairly, it will pose less security risk.
“Nigerian correctional centres are seriously congested as we speak. Now if you take look at the caliber of inmates who are to benefit from this Federal government program, it is those who have committed minor offences. They are the indigent inmates who cannot afford their bail requirements.
“Now if you look at the security implications of their release, it is neither here nor there. This is as result of the fact that there are so many inmates in those correctional centres.”
Barr. Ogbe, the gubernatorial candidate of Action Alliance in the 2023 general election further stressed that “those who have been incarcerated have negatively been influenced by these hardened criminals. If we decide to release these inmates, they may end wreaking more havoc to the security situation in the country. But if you leave there, it will be antithetical to the law.
“If you look at the history of their incarceration, you will discover that many of them don’t have business being in these correctional centres because these are people who have committed lesser offences and they are still undergoing trials.
“Honestly I don’t subscribe to the idea of remanding people in the correctional centres. Those who should be remanded in the correctional centres should be those who committed serious offences like rape, murder, arson etc.
“By and large, I don’t see much security implications such release will pose to the society because these are the people who have committed lesser offences. Again if government puts up a program that will make those individuals not to go back to those offences again, I don’t see any security implications on the society.”