The Federal Government, on Saturday, paid the fines and released 11 (eleven) inmates in four custodial centres in Enugu State in its aggressive initiative to decongest overcrowded custodial centres nationwide.The four custodial centres in Enugu State included: Enugu, Nsukka and Oji River Custodial Centres as well as Ibiteolo Farm Centre in Ezeagu LGA.
Releasing the inmates, the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said that the released inmates were among the 4,068 inmates sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with option of fine and compensation in Custodial Centres nationwide.Tunji-Ojo, represented by Mrs Ogechi Ogu, Deputy Director of Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), said that the initiative was meant to decongest Custodial Centres and make them humane for proper reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to take place.
According to him, the 4,068 inmates are serving different terms of imprisonment in lieu of fines and/or compensation; and even as most of the benefiting inmates at the verge of their freedom are indigents who cannot afford to pay their fines, and are languishing in custody.
“The sum of N585 million was raised by philanthropic individuals, groups and corporate bodies, as part of their corporate social responsibility, for this purpose.
“Hence, all inmates in Custodial Centres who have fines and/or compensation not exceeding N1 million are qualified, and would benefit from this gesture. In addition, we are also providing each of them a stipend of N10,000 to enable them return to their communities.
“We have given them requisite training aimed at impacting their lives functionally and equipping them with the knowledge for their self-reliance upon discharge,” he said.
The minister noted that in line with President Bola Tinubu mantra of Renewed Hope, the benefiting inmates had been given a second opportunity to get back to track and contribute to the ongoing development of the nation.
He appreciated all stakeholders that facilitated the gesture as their corporate social responsibility, adding that “all have a stake in ensuring that offenders are properly reformed, rehabilitated and reintegrated back to their communities”.
“I also use this opportunity to call on the larger community to receive these returning citizens with open arms and should refrain from stigmatising against them as it can drive them back to offending the law, which will further endanger the society.
“To the benefiting inmates, I implore you to see this as a second chance to make things right again. You are therefore advised to stay off crime and criminality,” he advised.
Earlier, the Controller of Corrections in Enugu State, Mr Nicholas Obiako, thanked the Federal Government and the minister on behalf of the resourceful and hard working Controller-General of Corrections, Mr Haliru Nababa, for paying the fines and release of the inmates.
Obiako said that the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Enugu State Command had prepared the released inmates through sound formal education and vocational training such as wood works, tailoring, leather works among others.
According to him, each of these released inmate are going home with a certificate in formal education or trade test certificate to enable them to be gainfully employed or be self-reliant to contribute positively to the society.
“As you are going home; go, rejoice and thank God for your release and do not engage or commit any crime as I will not want to see you here again. Go home and sin no more as well as avoid trouble as much as you can.
“I am appealing to the society to accept them with open hands and free mind and make their integration easy as we have over years remoulded their character to fit in and contribute to societal growth,” he said.
One of the released inmates, Mr Maduabuchi Okonkwo, thanked the President, minister and other stakeholders that worked for their release, assuring that “we will not go back to crime as we have learnt to be useful to ourselves and the society”.
The release of the inmates enlivened the mood of other inmates that were thanking God for the grace the Federal Government granted to their colleagues and prayed they get such favour.