By Ukpono Ukpong
The Minister of Interior, Hon. (Dr.) Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has confirmed that about 70% of persons detained in the various correctional centres in Nigeria are detainees on ‘awaiting trail list.
He said this while explaining the plans of the government to decongest the detention facilities while hosting the Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria, Samuela Isopi, at his office in Abuja.
The Minister stated that the move comes on the heels of the Ministry’s plans to implement key reforms in areas of migration and the reformation of Nigeria’s correctional centres.
The Minister noted that the Ministry was working on key reforms, especially in areas of travel documentation processes and knowledge transfer.
He said: “We have commenced the process to unbundle the bottlenecks in our international passport application and collection process. Today, we have made huge progress. We are also working on ways to reduce identity theft. We want to make sure the green passport regains its pride and integrity.”
Speaking on plans to decongest the nation’s correctional facilities across the country, the minister urged the EU to support the Federal Government’s plan to carry out an audit of all correctional centres.
“We have over 4000 inmates in the facilities for their inability to pay various fines. We believe we can reduce the number of inmates in our correctional facilities by about forty per cent if we explore non-custodial alternatives as provided for in the Correctional Service Act.”
Earlier during the meeting, the Ambassador assured the Minister of the support of the European Union, noting that the EU would render technical support in managing the illegal aspect of migration as well as curbing human trafficking and people smuggling.
During the meeting, the minister described the relationship with the EU as “historical”, noting that areas of bond with the ministry’s key reforms include combating illegal migration, unearthing organised crime, and upholding the rule of law.
According to the minister, the EU could support the country in deploying technology to buffer and enhance border management architecture within the country.
“The European Union is important to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Our relationship with the EU is historical in terms of but not limited to bilateral support,” he said.
“If we are able to solve crime and migration problems in Nigeria, Africa will be better for it. Due to the boundaries Africa shares with the EU, our problems are more of an EU problem than any other part of the world. And, because we are committed to solving this, we will explore all avenues.”