BY BRIGHT JACOB
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has urged the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to spend the N500 million earmarked for the payment of fines of inmates across the country’s correctional centres on their welfare.
Tunji-Ojo had earlier on Thursday lamented that over 4,000 inmates held in custodial centres across the country were unable to pay N500 million in fines.
He noted that in the next four weeks, the fines would be cleared and the inmates would be released, adding that he had met with some private organisations to raise the money.
In a reaction to the minister’s statement on Sunday, Falana said, “While the Interior Minister deserves commendation for the initiative we are compelled to call for a review of the plan.
“The N500 million earmarked for payment of fines should be spent on the welfare of inmates in the correctional centres while alternative decongestion policies are considered.”
The senior advocate also advised Tunji-Ojo to request the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chief Judges across the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory to “visit the correctional centres and exercise their powers under the Criminal Justice (Release from Custody) (Special Provisions) Act by ordering the release of all inmates whose detention is either manifestly unlawful; or who have been in custody, whether on remand or otherwise, for periods longer than the maximum period of imprisonment which they could have served had they been convicted of the offences in respect of which they are detained.”
Falana stressed that some inmates currently held in the Ikoyi Correctional Centre have had their case files destroyed owing to the 2020 #EndSARS protests’ fire incident at the state Magistrate Court and High Court buildings.
In view of this, the human rights lawyer further advised the minister to see to the release of such inmates.
“However, it is pertinent to draw the attention of the Interior Minister to the plight of the scores of inmates who are languishing in the Ikoyi Correctional Centre as their case files were destroyed when the Magistrate Court and High Court buildings were burnt during the #EndSARS protests in October 2020,” Falana stressed.
In his statement, Falana noted the administration of erstwhile president, Muhammadu Buhari, released 7,813 inmates from the Nigeria Correctional Centres across the country during the outbreak of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus among inmates.
The SAN added, “As the nation marks the third year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests, we urge the Interior Minister to ensure the immediate release of such inmates since the state can no longer prosecute them as their cases have been burnt.”