The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, facilitated the release of 4,068 inmates from the Kuje Medium Custodial Center.
This was done at alleviating overcrowding in custodial centers and promoting rehabilitation.
This unprecedented initiative, financed by philanthropists and corporate entities, saw fines totaling N585 million paid on behalf of indigent inmates.
During the flag-off event at the Kuje Medium Custodial Center in Abuja, Dr. Tunji-Ojo emphasized the urgent need to address the overcrowding crisis in custodial facilities nationwide.
With over 80,000 inmates in facilities designed for less than 50,000, the initiative not only provides relief but also focuses on reformation and reintegration.
“The release of 4,068 inmates on fines option is a step towards transforming our custodial centers into spaces for rehabilitation.
We are addressing the overcrowding challenge and empowering individuals to reintegrate into society,” stated Dr. Tunji-Ojo.
The beneficiaries, mostly indigents unable to pay fines, received more than just freedom.
Each inmate, with fines not exceeding one million Naira, was also provided with a stipend to support their return to their communities.
The minister underscored that the initiative goes beyond freedom, as inmates underwent training to equip them with practical skills, civic responsibilities, and strategies to avoid reoffending.
Dr. Tunji-Ojo urged the public not to stigmatize the ex-convicts, emphasizing the importance of their successful reintegration.
He stated, “Supporting offenders’ reformatory process is crucial for public safety and national security. Let us receive these returning citizens with open arms, refraining from stigmatizing actions that may drive them back to crime.”
Dr. Uju Agomoh, Founder and Executive Director of Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), lauded the minister’s initiative, stating it aligns with the organization’s mission and sets a precedent for criminal justice reform.
The Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, commended the minister’s leadership, describing the initiative as both philanthropic and strategic in reducing custodial center overcrowding.
He highlighted the commitment to inmates’ welfare and the use of technology, such as the Correctional Information Management System, to facilitate justice access.
Inmate beneficiaries, including skilled plumber Mr. Mike Audi, expressed gratitude for the government’s support.
Audi stated, “We have never lost hope, and the minister’s help is something we will never forget. We want the government to continue embracing us and providing support for our reintegration.”
The decongestion initiative marks a significant step toward reforming the criminal justice system and fostering a society where individuals, regardless of past mistakes, can rebuild their lives.
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