Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, has urged Interior Minister, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo to reconsider his proposal to use N500 million to pay the court costs for 4,000 inmates.
Falana madethe plea in a statement titled ‘Interior Minister should review plan to pay fines of N500 million’, which he signed as the Chairman, Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB) on Sunday.
He further urged Tunji-Ojo to seek the wellbeing of the detainees at their different correctional facilities located throughout the federation rather than using the fund designated for that reason.
“The Minister of Interior, Honourable Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has announced his immediate plan to decongest the correctional centres in the country by ensuring the payment of the fines imposed on not less than 4,000 convicts by various courts in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Having concluded the arrangement, the Minister disclosed that the total fines of N500 million would be paid within the next four weeks,” the statement reads.
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“While the Interior Minister deserves commendation for the initiative we are compelled to call for a review of the plan. The N500 million earmarked for payment of fines should be spent on the welfare of inmates in the correctional centres while alternative decongestion policies are considered.
“Specifically, the Minister should request the President and the various state Governors to exercise their prerogative of mercy by granting pardon to the 4,000 convicts on grounds of impecuniosity to facilitate their immediate release from custody.
“It is on record that the federal government had released 7,813 inmates from the Nigeria Correctional Centres across the country during the outbreak of COVID-19 to curb the spread of the virus among inmates.
“The convicts and awaiting trial inmates were granted amnesty and released on the orders of former President Muhammadu Buhari as part of the prison decongestion policy of the Federal Government. “