Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, says 30 per cent of inmates in custodial centres across the country should be released.
The minister said he will meet with state governors to decide on the mass release of the inmates, adding that 90 per cent of them are being held for contravening various states’ laws.
Speaking over the weekend in a NAN forum in Abuja, Aregbesola said over 70 per cent of the 75,635 inmates across the country are awaiting trial.
The minister added that the decongestion of the 253 custodial centres nationwide was necessary as some of the inmates have no reason to remain in custody.
He called on all stakeholders to work towards a “better-structured criminal justice administration”.
“I have written the Nigerian Governors Forum to allow me to come and address them on how they can support the process of decongestion,” he said.
“Because the governors must buy into this system for us to do a massive decongestion especially of awaiting trial inmates.
“If we get the buy-in of state judicial authorities and the government of the states, we can pull out 30 per cent of those who are there.
“If you look at a man that is caught for petty theft and you are trying him for three years, even if you convict him for that crime, how long will he stay?
“How long will that fellow stay, probably six months, but without trial, he will be there for three years.
“Again, you arrested a boy under the bridge, there is no fixed crime and he is there forever and so on and so forth. So, we need the buying-in and support from state governments.
“This is for them to critically know the situation and let them set up committees that will profile all those who are there. And help either to convict, release them or see if they have overstayed their required time.”
The minister said the high number of awaiting trial inmates (ATIs) is putting undue pressure on custodial centres in the country.
Aregbesola said 51,541 inmates in various prisons in the country are awaiting trial.
“No fewer than 70 per cent of Nigerian inmates are serving time without being sentenced as they are awaiting trials,” he said.
“Assuming the period of waiting for trial is even small, probably it will not be an issue, we can manage it.
“How can you put people on trial for fifteen, ten years, how? and they are not a small number.
“Some are even there forever, there is no file, there is no prosecution process, they are just there.
“Our own is to keep, we have no power over who are there, we cannot release them. So, as long as there is a warrant to detain them, we keep them,” he added.
Aregbesola, therefore, called for a review of the administration of the criminal justice system of the country to provide a timeline for trials.