October 23, 2023

Use N500m fine for inmates’ welfare, Falana tells Interior minister

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By Dapo Akinrefon

CHAIRMAN of the Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond, ASCAB, Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, urged the Minister of Interior, Mr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to review the Federal Government’s proposed plan to pay N500 million fines for 4,000 convicts across the country.

Falana, in a statement, commended the minister for his plan to decongest the prisons in the country.

He, however, said the N500 million earmarked for payment of fines should be spent on the welfare of inmates in the prisons.

Falana said: “The Minister of Interior, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has announced his immediate plan to decongest the correctional centres in the country by ensuring the payment of the fines imposed on not less than 4,000 convicts by various courts in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Having concluded the arrangement, the Minister disclosed that the fines of N500 million would be paid within the next four weeks.

 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. Specifically, the Minister should request the President and the various state Governors to exercise their prerogative of mercy by granting pardon to the 4,000 convicts on grounds of impecuniosity to facilitate their immediate release from custody.

 “It is on record that the Federal Government had released 7,813 inmates from the Nigeria Correctional Centres across the country during the outbreak of COVID-19 to curb the spread of the virus among inmates. The convicts and awaiting trial inmates were granted amnesty and released on the orders of former President Muhammadu Buhari as part of the prison decongestion policy of the Federal Government.

 “The Minister may also wish to request the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chief Judges of all the States and 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.”