Interior ministry seeks UN partnership on prison reforms, decongestion

Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, minister of interior, has requested technical expertise from the United Nations on the decongestion of the nation’s correctional centres. 

On Saturday, the minister confirmed the release of 4,068 inmates nationwide after the federal government paid N585 million in fines.

During his presentation at the International Donor Round Table on Correctional Service Reform, organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Abuja, Tunji-Ojo said decongesting the facilities requires the cooperation of government, civil society groups, and the international community.

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“With over 80,000 inmates, we were able to decongest by only 5% with the N585 million fines we cleared. This is the era of Renewed Hope,” the minister said.

“We need to partner with you to see how we can leverage your technical expertise.”

On abuse of power by controllers, the minister said he will crack down on, and expel any officer caught in the act.

“Any controller caught taking money from a big man to lock up a poor man without a detention warrant will be expelled from the service,” he said.

“We are here to fill in the gap for the weakest in society. We are here, as a government, to be the voice of the voiceless, and the strength of the weakest.

“Never again should the freedom of anybody be taken away on the basis of his weakness.”

On his part, Matthias Schmale, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, commended the minister for his proactiveness since his appointment.

“I want to commend you for the good job you are doing. I am aware of the great things you have done,” Schmale said.

Also present at the event were Haliru Nababa, the comptroller-general of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS); the Italian ambassador to Nigeria, and representatives of the governments of Germany, Qatar and the US.

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