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Federal government through the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday, freed 37 inmates from both the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre and the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Ahoada, Rivers State.

Releasing the inmates at the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre, the Minister for Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, said the exercise was part of the government’s measures to free 4,068 inmates serving various terms of imprisonment with the option of fine and compensation in custodial centres across the country.

Tunji-Ojo noted that a stipend of N10,000 was also being provided to the inmates granted freedom to facilitate their return back home.

According to him, the exercise was in in tandem with President Bola Tinubu led administration’s drive to decongest custodial centers, improve correctional facilities and enhance the welfare of staff and inmates at correctional centers nationwide.

Tunji-Ojo, who was represented by his Technical Adviser, Barr. Tunde Ogundare, said over N585 million was raised as corporate social responsibility from corporate bodies for the exercise.

He regretted that the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre was overcrowded with inmates against the initial design of the facility.

“The Rivers State command hosts one of the biggest custodial centres in terms of inmates’ population. The Maximum Security Custodial Centre, Port Harcourt, built in the colonial era should be for about 800 inmates, but today, it locks more than 4000 inmates, accounting for one of the biggest in the country.

“This statistics shows that the facility is more than 500 percent congested, meaning that space meant for one person is occupied by 5 people. This is an unacceptable condition which the present administration will not allow.

“We are fighting the menace of overcrowding through numerous strategies and approaches. We are employing both short and long term measures to decongest custodial centres nationwide. And the event we are observing today is part of the short term measures,” he said.

The Minister further stated that the benefitting inmates have been trained in various skills and vocations, adding that they have also undergone post-release orientation courses that will help them resettle in their communities seamlessly.

He however called the public, especially communities of the former inmates to accept them and also encourage them to reintegrate properly and warned against stigmatising them.

Earlier, the Controller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, who spoke through the Controller of Corrections, Rivers State Command, Felix Lawrence commended the Interior Minister and the Federal Government for initiating the release of the inmates, leading to decongestion of Correctional Centres across the country.

He urged the inmates to make judicious use of the privilege given to them and not to return to crime and criminality.

On his part, the Deputy Controller in charge of the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Custodial Centre, DC Spiff Barafaye, appreciated the Minister for including the Port Harcourt Correctional facility among those that were decongested nationwide.

He advised the former inmates to henceforth, eschew crime, and put the skills which they have learnt while at the centre into practice adding that it will help them earn a living.

On their part, some of the inmates thanked the federal government for releasing them, while promising never to return to their old ways.



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