The Federal government through the Ministry of Interior, on Tuesday, freed 37 inmates from the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre and the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Ahoada, Rivers State.
Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior, disclosed this while performing the release of the inmates at the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre.
Tunji-Ojo said the exercise was part of the measures put in place by the Federal Government to decongest custodial centers, improve correctional facilities and enhance the welfare of staff and inmates at correctional centers nationwide.
Tunji-Ojo also said that the exercise was in furtherance of the President Bola Tinubu led administration’s drive to free 4,068 inmates sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with the option of a fine and compensation in custodial centres across the country.
The minister, represented by his Technical Adviser, Mr Tunde Ogundare, noted that a stipend of N10,000 was also provided to the freed inmates to facilitate their return back home.
He said that over N585 million was raised as corporate social responsibility from corporate bodies for the release of the inmates.
Ogundare expressed dismay that the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre was over crowded as against the initial design.
The Rivers state command hosts one of the biggest custodial centres in terms of inmates’ population.
According to him, the maximum security custodial centre, Port Harcourt, built in the colonial era, should be for about 800 inmates, but today, it locks more than 4,000 inmates.
“This statistics shows that the facility is more than 500 percent congested, meaning that space meant for one person is occupied by 5 people.
This is an unacceptable condition which the present administration will not allow,” he said.
He stated that the decongestion of the custodial centre nation wide was one of the short term measures put in place by government to fight against overcrowding at the centres.
The minister disclosed that the benefitting inmates had been trained in various skills and vocations, adding that they had also undergone post-release orientation courses that would help them resettle in their communities seamlessly.
He however, called on the public, especially communities of the former inmates, to accept them and also encourage them to reintegrate properly, warning the public against stigmatising them.