The federal government says about 74 per cent of the total population of inmates in its custodial centres, are awaiting trial inmates
It, therefore, urged state governments to build holding centres for suspects awaiting trial in order to address the challenges of congestion in custodial facilities across the country.
In a statement on Friday in Abuja, the Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Interior, Blessing Lere-Adams, quoted Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola as making the call.
Mr Aregbesola spoke at the inauguration of the Osun Command office complex of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Osogbo.
He noted that the entire national custodial facilities have a maximum capacity for 57,278 inmates.
“But by the last count earlier in the week, there is a total population of 68,747 inmates, made up of 67,422 males and 1,325 females.
“This means that we have shot above the capacity by 18 per cent.”
The minister noted further that 50,992 inmates, representing 74 per cent of the total population of inmates in the custodial centres, were awaiting trial inmates, while only 17,755 inmates, representing 26 per cent, were actual convicts.
Mr Aregbesola urged state governments to work with the Federal Government in addressing the challenges as an overwhelming majority of inmates in custody were state offenders being tried by their respective state governments.
He urged state governments to implement the various measures undertaken by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari aimed at decongesting custodial facilities.
The minister also urged them to, as a matter of urgency, accelerate the wheel of justice as a lot of inmates had been in custody for a period longer than the maximum sentence their alleged offences carry.
He described this as a fundamental miscarriage of justice.
Mr Aregbesola also urged them to share in the burden of decongesting custodial facilities by building modern holding centres.
He suggested that state governments should set aside money for the upkeep of inmates while the Federal Government would provide the personnel to man and run the facilities efficiently.
“States governors should summon the will to do the needful on death row convicts and bring closure to their cases, set some others free on compassionate grounds, especially those who have grown old on account of the long time in custody.
“Those who are terminally ill and those who have been reformed and demonstrated exceptionally good behaviour should also be set free,’’ he advised.
The minister said that at present there were 3,008 condemned criminals, consisting 2,952 males and 56 females.
Mr Aregbesola commended the Controller-General of the service, Haliru Nababa, and his men for realising the mandate of keeping convicts and awaiting trial suspects in safe and legal custody and reforming convicts to be better citizens.
He thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his generous disposition towards the ministry and the agencies under it.
He also expressed appreciation to the government and Osun people for donating the land to the NCoS.
In his remarks, Governor Adeboyega Oyetola commended the Federal Government for providing a conducive environment for NCoS staff.
This, he said, would go a long way in encouraging as well as boosting their moral for effective and efficient service delivery.
The governor also promised the state government’s support for the service.
Mr Oyetola was represented by the Secretary to the Government, Oyebamiji Oluwole.
Also, the Speaker of the Osun House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, commended Aregbesola for his passion for infrastructure development in the state and urged him not to relent in his efforts.
Earlier, the controller-general, who expressed the service’s appreciation to members of National Assembly (NASS) for their commitment to equipping the service for optimal performance, said the organisation would justify the Federal Government’s gesture.