The Federal Government has said that governors can offset or grant waivers to inmates with fines less than N1 million.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, during the commissioning of a 20-bed space medical facility at Port Harcourt maximum security custodial centre.
Aregbesola said while the Federal Government is finding long time solutions to the challenge of prison decongestion, the State Government can in the meantime provide basic supports, like offsetting the meager fines and debts, building court houses at the correctional services premises or try the defendants virtually from the Correctional Centres for speedy determination of cases.
He held that some of the inmates are held behind bars for minor offences that can be easily waved by the states.
The Minister further asserted that he recently asked the comptroller of Correctional centres to compile the list of inmates whose reason for incarceration is a fine or a debt not more than one million naira that are meant to be paid to the state governments.
He said about 5,000 inmates where shortlisted under this category and Al of them have stayed long enough in the care of the Federal Government to consume foods worth more than they are supposed to pay as fines and debt to the states.
According to him, in Rivers State, there are about 22 of such inmates and the 22 of them are collectively owing a little above 3million naira, an amount he thinks the State Government can offset or wave for the inmates to be freed.
The minister noted that apart from reducing the financial burden on the Federal Government, such decisions by the state will also help in decongesting the correctional centres.
He said for instance, the Maximum facility in Port Harcourt was built 1,800 inmates, but as of May 12, 2023 the centre was holding 3,100 inmates.
While emphasizing that the situation in Port Harcourt is a reflection of the cases in most of the facilities across the country, the minister said Additionally, the Federal Government is building 6 mega facilities with at least 3,000 capacity in the six geopolitical zones to further decongest the existing facilities.
The one for the South-South is located in Bori in Khana Local Government Area of the Ogoni ethnic group in Rivers State.