FG releases 11 inmates in custodial centres in Enugu State

By Stanley Nwanosike

The Federal Government, on Saturday, paid the fine for the release of 11 inmates in four custodial centres in Enugu State.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the gesture was in line with the government’s aggressive initiative to decongest overcrowded custodial centres nationwide.

The four custodial centres included Enugu, Nsukka and Oji River Custodial Centres as well as  Ibiteolo Farm Centre in Ezeagu Local Government Area.

Announcing the release of the inmates, the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said that the inmates were among the 4,068 sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with the option of fine and compensation in all the Custodial Centres nationwide.

Tunji-Ojo, represented by Mrs Ogechi Ogu, the Deputy Director, Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, said that the initiative was meant to decongest the 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.

He said that most of the benefiting inmates at the verge of their freedom were indigent, who could not afford to pay their fines, hence were 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 providing each of them a stipend of N10,000 to enable them to 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,” the minister said.

He further said that in line with President Bola Tinubu’s mantra of Renewed Hope, the benefiting inmates had been given a second opportunity to get back to track and contribute to the ongoing national development.

He thanked all the stakeholders that facilitated the gesture as their corporate social responsibility.

He said 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 refrain from stigmatising them as it can drive them back to offending the law, which will further endanger 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,” Tunji-Ojo said.

Earlier, the Controller of Corrections in the state, Mr Nicholas Obiako, thanked the Federal Government and the minister on behalf of the Controller-General of Corrections, Mr Haliru Nababa, for paying the fines and ensuring the release of the inmates.

Obiako said that the Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service had prepared the released inmates through sound formal education and vocational training, such as wood works, tailoring and leather works, amongst others.

According to him, each of these inmates was going home with a Certificate in formal education or Trade Test Certificate to enable them to be gainfully employed or become self-reliant to contribute positively to society.

“As you are going home; go, rejoice and thank God for your release and do not engage or commit any crime because I will not want to see you here again.

“Go home and sin no more and avoid trouble as much as you can.

“I am appealing to society to accept them with open hands and free mind and make their integration easy as we have over the years remoulded their character to fit in and contribute to societal growth,” Obiako said.

One of the beneficiaries, Mr Maduabuchi Okonkwo, thanked the president, minister and other stakeholders that worked for their release.

Okonkwo, who spoke on behalf of the other 10 inmates, promised that “we will not go back to crime as we have learnt to be useful to ourselves and society”.

NAN reports that the release of the inmates sparked off joy among those still in custody as they  thanked God for the grace that was  granted to their colleagues and hoped to get similar favour. (NAN)