The Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has revealed that over 4,000 inmates are still locked up in various correctional facilities across the country for their inability to pay fines.
The Minister made this declaration while hosting the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and West Africa, Samuela Isopi where he seek support for the various reforms in the Interior Ministry.
The Minister, said: “We have over 4000 inmates in the facilities for their inability to pay various fines. We believe we can reduce the number of inmates in our correctional facilities by about forty per cent if we explore non-custodial alternatives as provided for in the Correctional Service Act.”
Tunji-Ojo said the support of EU is needed as the ministry intend to implement key reforms in areas of migration and the reformation of Nigeria’s correctional centres.
During the meeting, the minister described the relationship with the EU as “historical”, noting that areas of bond with the ministry’s key reforms include combating illegal migration, unearthing organised crime, and upholding the rule of law.
According to the minister, the EU could support the country in deploying technology to buffer and enhance border management architecture within the country.
“The European Union is important to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Our relationship with the EU is historical in terms, of but not limited to, bilateral support,” he said.
The Minister added that: “If we are able to solve crime and migration problems in Nigeria, Africa will be better for it. Due to the boundaries Africa shares with the EU, our problems are more of an EU problem than any other part of the world. And, because we are committed to solving this, we will explore all avenues.”
He noted that the Ministry was working on key reforms, especially in areas of travel documentation processes and knowledge transfer, while adding that: “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 make sure the green passport regains its pride and integrity.”
Speaking on plans to decongest the nation’s correctional facilities across the country, the minister revealed that over seventy per cent of the 79,000 inmates are awaiting trial.
The Minister urged the EU to support the Federal Government’s plan to carry out an audit of all correctional centres.
Earlier during the meeting, the Ambassador assured the Minister of the support of the European Union, noting that the EU would render technical support in managing the illegal aspect of migration as well as curbing human trafficking and people smuggling.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja