The Federal Government has revealed that over 40,000 out of the 79,000 inmates currently held in custodial centres across the country are unable to pay various fines for their release.
Additionally, the government is seeking collaboration and support from the European Union (EU) to implement key reforms in areas of migration and the reformation of Nigeria’s correctional centres.
Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior, 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 reported by Alao Babatunde, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Minister of Interior, in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
He expressed concern about the large number of inmates—more than 40,000—being held in custodial facilities due to their inability to pay various fines.
The Minister highlighted key areas of bond with the ministry’s reforms, 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 improve border management architecture within the country.
“The European Union is crucial to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Our relationship with the EU is historical and extends beyond bilateral support,” he said.
“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.
Since we are committed to solving this, we will explore all avenues.”
The Minister mentioned that the Ministry was working on key reforms, especially in the areas of travel documentation processes and knowledge transfer.
He added, “We have begun 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 the green passport regains its pride and integrity.”
Regarding 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.
He urged the EU to support the Federal Government’s plan to conduct 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.”
During the meeting, the Ambassador assured the Minister of the European Union’s support, noting that the EU would provide technical support in managing the illegal aspects of migration as well as curbing human trafficking and people smuggling.
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