THE Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has said over 70 per cent of the 79,000 inmates in Nigeria are awaiting trial.
He also said over 4,000 inmates were held in custodial centres nationwide because they couldn’t pay fines imposed on them by judges and magistrates.
A statement by the minister’s Media Adviser, Alao Babatunde, on Saturday, September 23, said the minister gave the figures and highlighted challenges facing inmates and correctional centres in the country when Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, visited him in his office in Abuja.
According to him, inmates in correctional facilities would reduce to 40 per cent if non-custodial alternatives provided for in the Correctional Service Act are explored.
“Over 70 per cent of the 79,000 inmates are awaiting trial. We have over 4,000 inmates in the facilities because of their inability to pay various fines. We believe we can reduce the number of inmates in our correctional facilities by about 40 per cent if we explore non-custodial alternatives as provided for in the Correctional Service Act.”
The minister called on the EU to support the Federal Government’s plan to audit all correctional centres.
The statement added that the ministry had commenced working on key reforms, especially in travel documentation processes and knowledge transfer.
“We have commenced the process to unbottle the bottlenecks in our international passport application and collection process. Today, we have made huge progress. We are also working on ways to reduce identity theft. We want to ensure the green passport regains its pride and integrity.”
The minister also noted that the EU had the potential to assist Nigeria in implementing technology to strengthen Nigeria’s border management.
According to him, addressing crime and migration challenges in Nigeria would contribute to a better Africa, noting that given the proximity and borders shared with the EU by Africa, the issues are not just Nigeria’s but are concerns for the EU.
Earlier, the ambassador affirmed the EU’s commitment to technical assistance in addressing unlawful migration, combating human trafficking and illicit transportation of individuals.
The ICIR had, on May 11, reported that about 52,436 inmates were awaiting trial, causing overpopulation in many correctional centres across the country.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, said there was a steady rise in the custodial centres’ population, noting that at least 80 per cent of the inmates were awaiting trial.
According to him, Nigeria’s 244 custodial centres accommodated 75,507 inmates. He added that more than 82 correctional centres were overcrowded.
“The total number of male inmates is 73,821, and 1,686 are female. Of the 75,507 inmates, 52,436 are awaiting trial, while 23,071 are convicted persons, with 3,322 as condemned inmates on death row.”
A report by The ICIR shows how oversight failure and authorities’ negligence cause an increasing population of awaiting trial suspects in custody of the country’s correctional facilities.
The report shows that police and other prosecuting agencies, including the State Security Services (SSS), contribute to the increasing number of inmates awaiting trial.
The police, according to the report, often file the wrong cases in the wrong courts. In several cases, courts fail to make preliminary findings on cases before ordering the remand of suspects.
Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: email@example.com. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M