Prison Decongestion: Minister to lead fundraising campaign

Olubunmi Osoteku, Ibadan

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The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has said he would lead a campaign to get charitable Nigerians to raise funds for the decongestion of custodial facilities (prisons/detention centres) across the country.

Aregbesola spoke to journalists, on Monday, after an assessment tour of prison facilities in Oyo State, following recent attacks on the facility and high levels of congestion, among other challenges.

He disclosed that part of the inmates that would benefit from the gesture are those who are still in custody due to their inability to meet the financial requirements (fine) for their freedom, directing that the 800 capacity Maximum Security Custodial Centre in Olomi-Olojuoro, Ibadan, be put to use by month-end.

The Minister said those who have stayed in the custody more than the terms of sentence they should have served, even if found guilty, would also benefit from the gesture, noting that the officials of the custodial centres were already compiling a list of would-be-beneficiaries.

“The other inmates that are working hard is the category of inmates who are there far beyond even the limit of the sentence, should they be found guilty. For instance, the total number of convicts in Agodi is less than 400, less than the accommodation capacity of the facility and we have over a thousand inmates there, which means about two-thirds of the inmates are awaiting trial inmates.”

Additionally, Aregbesola said he was already in talks with the Presidential Task Force on the decongestion of the facility to use their office to ensure that if inmates who have stayed far beyond the period of incarceration are convicted, they should be freed as soon as possible, while also working on other terms of parole, prerogative of mercy and release globally.

He noted that delaying people in custody longer than the term they should have served if found guilty, is a violation of their rights, while also decrying the high cost of feeding the inmates and its negative effect on government spending.

The Minister revealed that the new facility located at Olomide-Olojuoro, Ibadan, which can take 800 inmates, had been partly completed about five years earlier and directed the authorities of the Correctional Service to make it operational by the end of next month.

“We need the support of other security agencies particularly the Police to reinforce the security of the facility. I have directed the authorities on what to do to complete the facility and we shall complete it before the end of the year, God willing.”

Aregbesola commended the men and officers at the Agodi Maximum Custodial Centre for keeping the environment clean and hygienic despite the high population of the inmates, asserting that plans were underway to introduce greening and beautification in a way that the inmates would not be deprived of their sense of attraction and sense of appreciating beauty and nature.

He noted; “We need to do more, we need to plant greens, we need to plant brilliant and attractive flowers and I have instructed them to so do. What you will see now in most, if not all, our custodial facilities irrespective of status is high level of greening and uplifting environment that will make the facility not confining as it is physically and not depressing.”

The Minister explained that the inmates’ sense of attraction, appreciating beauty and getting some joy from nature must be kept alive, as custodial facilities are to restrict freedom but not comfort.

 

PIAK

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