The Federal Government has revealed that more than 4,000 of the over 79,000 inmates are currently being held in custodial centres across the country because of their inability to pay various fines for their release.
This comes as the government seeks the collaboration and support of the European Union (EU) in implementing key reforms in the areas of migration and the reformation of Nigeria’s correctional centres.
The Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, made these remarks when he received the Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, in his office in Abuja.
Tunji-Ojo, who pledged to strengthen Nigeria’s relations with the EU during the meeting, described the relationship with the EU as “historical,” as stated by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Minister of Interior, Alao Babatunde, in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
He expressed concern that more than 4,000 inmates are being held in the custodial facilities due to their inability to pay various fines.
The Minister highlighted key areas for collaboration with the EU, including combating irregular migration, addressing organised crime, and upholding the rule of law.
According to him, the EU could support the country in deploying technology to bolster and enhance border management architecture within the country.
“The European Union is essential to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Our relationship with the EU is historical and not limited to bilateral support,” he said.
“If we can 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 since we are committed to solving this, we will explore all avenues.”
The Minister noted that the Ministry was working on key reforms, especially in the areas of travel documentation processes and knowledge transfer.
He added, “We have commenced the process to streamline the bottlenecks in our international passport application and collection process.
Today, we have made significant progress. We are also working on ways to reduce identity theft. We want to ensure that 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.
“We have over 4,000 inmates in the facilities due to 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.”
Earlier during the meeting, the Ambassador assured the Minister of the support of the European Union, noting that the EU would provide technical support in managing the illegal aspect of migration as well as curbing human trafficking and people smuggling.
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