Nigeria seeks UN assistance on prison reforms, decongestion

The Federal Government has called on the United Nations to support Nigeria’s efforts at reforming its correctional service and decongesting its custodial facilities.

Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo made the call on Tuesday in Abuja during his presentation at the International Donor Round Table on Correctional Service Reform organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.

In a statement issued Wednesday in Abuja and signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the Minister at the event, noted that decongesting the facilities demands the urgent attention of government, civil society groups, and international communities. 

He said, “There is a lot to do in the area of decongesting our custodial facilities. From our audits, we have too many inmates who are awaiting trials. We also have many others who are illegally detained.

“With over 80,000 inmates, we were able to decongest by only 5% with the N585 million fines we cleared last Saturday. 

“Today, we seek the support of the United Nations as there is an urgent need for government, civil society groups, and the international communities to contribute their quota to re-engineering the system.

“This is the era of Renewed Hope. We need to partner with you to see how we can leverage on your technical expertise.”

On abuse of power by custodial facility controllers, which had become commonplace before now, the Minister frowned at such development, noting that the Renewed Hope agenda of the President was set to crack down and expel anyone 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.

“We are here to fill in the gap for the weakest in the 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,” he stated.

Speaking on giving hope to Nigerians and delivering on the mandate of government, the Minister assured the United Nations team that the current administration is key to doing things differently in order to earn the trust of its citizens and the international communities.

“Trust is something you don’t ask for – you earn it. This government wants to work to earn your trust and loyalty. We are doing things differently, and ready to deliver on the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu where Nigerians can have a better life, and brighter future,” the Minister said.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Matthias Schmale, commended the Minister for his proactive measures since taking over the helm of affairs of the Ministry.

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

Held in the UN House in Abuja, the round table saw the participation of top officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, House Committee on Reformatory Institutions, UNODC, UNFPA, concerned NGOs, diplomats, and international communities including the Italian Ambassador, and representatives of the governments of Germany, Qatar and the USA.


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