Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has called on international communities to support the country’s bid to reform its correctional service operations and architecture.
He made the call on Tuesday in Abuja during his presentation at the International Donor Round Table on Correctional Service Reform organized by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to him, decongesting the correctional facilities demanded the urgent attention of the government, civil society groups, and international communities.
“There is a lot to do in the area of decongesting our correctional 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 on 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 you to see how we can leverage on your technical expertise.”
On the abuse of power by correctional facility controllers, which has in recent years become a commonplace, the minister who frowned at such development noted that the Renewed Hope agenda of the President was set to crack down and expel anyone caught in the act.
He, therefore, warned that: “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.”
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Matthias Schmale, on his part commended the Minister for his proactive measures since taking over the helms 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.