The Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, said over 4,000 inmates have been freed nationwide so far under the Federal Government Amnesty Programme launched in 2020.
Aregbesola said this during the inauguration of 53 operational vehicles purchased for the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister said the exercise had gone a long way in reducing the number of inmates in the service nationwide.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had granted presidential pardon to 2,600 inmates of Correctional Centres nationwide in April 2020.
NAN also reports that the pardon was said to be a continuous process in tackling overcrowding in all the Custodial Centres across the country.
Aregbesola said NCoS had a deluge of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs) as against convicts, saying that about 70 per cent of inmates were those awaiting trial.
He said the implication was huge logistics demand to convey the inmates to court at the appropriate time.
The minister explained that the plight of pre-trial detainees manifested in slow justice delivery, which was sometimes due to lack of vehicles to convey them to court, leading to delayed justice.
“The absence of quick dispensation of justice has been a major drawback to operational efficiency in offenders’ management, often precipitating agitations, jailbreaks as well as escape tendencies, which the authorities have to manage with great pain and huge cost.
“Apart from this, other essential and routine services like taking inmates to the hospital during emergencies, sewage disposal, supply of potable water and so on require steady functional logistics, which were grossly inadequate.
“This unacceptable situation caught the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari whose change agenda is targeted at improving the quality of lives of all Nigerians, including those behind bars.
“He graciously approve an increase in budgetary provision to the Service, which has been sustained till date, necessitating our gathering today.
“Now, the decongestion of our custodial centres has made more than 4,000 inmates gained freedom through the Federal Government Amnesty Programme,” he said.
Speaking at the event, the Controller General, NCoS, Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, said the inauguration of the operational vehicles was the 5th of its kind since he assumed office in 2016.
Ahmed said the effort of the Minister in ensuring that the budget of the service was improved led to the purchase of the operational vehicles.
“We have so far purchased 504 operational vehicles in which 219 were purchased in 2016, 49 in 2017, 129 in 2018, 54 in 2019 and 53 in 2020. And the 53 are the ones we are inaugurating today,” he said.
Ahmed said one of the greatest challenges of the service then was taking inmates to court, which he said added to congestion of custodial centres.
He called on the Minister to assist the service in securing funds for the implementation of NCoS Act 2019 and the implementation of Non Custodial Service.