In a bid to ensure reform and prison decongestation in Nigeria, sixty-six prison inmates, serving jail terms for their inability to pay fines, on Monday regained their freedom.
The inmates whose ages ranged from 19 to 63 years were released by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prisons Reforms and Decongestion under the chairmanship of the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Ishiaq Bello.
The release of the inmates was sequel to the payment of the fines imposed on them by the Lagos State government and some civil societies organization and on medical grounds.
The released inmates were released from Kirikiri Medium Security Prison, the Female Prison also in Kirikiri and Badagry Prison.
Those who were part of the prison decongestion exercise include, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, Attorney General (AG), Mr Adeniji Kazeem, the Director, Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey, Justice Adenike Coker, Justice Omobolanle Okikiolu-Ighile, representative of the Federal Attorney General (AGF), Mr Pius Oteh , Assistant Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr G. Abubakar, Lagos State Controller of Prisons, Mr Tunde Ladipo among others.
The 37 released from the Medium Security Prison, included one Okafor serving jail term for theft of a bag of salt who has hernia and a big cancerous lump on his left buttocks, nin20 from Badagry Prison whose release orders were signed by the chairman of the committee.
Six prison inmates in Kirikiri Maximum Prison whose imprisonment carried options of fine were denied freedom.
Justice Bello said his committee decided against visiting the Maximum Security Prison because they found out that they were jailed for dealing in hard drugs.
“We believe that those who deal in hard drug should not be sent back into the society. We have decided they should serve their full sentence”, he said.
Earlier, Justice Bello, during a chat with the media said the visit of the committee was not only to decongest the prisons but also to look at the conditions under which the inmates live.
According to him, the intention of government is to improve conditions of the prisons since they are meant to be correctional centres.
Oteh said the job of decongesting and reforming the prisons is constantly in progress.
Bello who commended Lagos state judiciary for the ” leadership and trail blazing role said it has been playing in major risons reform and decongestion”, further said the committee has been to five States so far to carry out similar exercise in accordance with its mandate adding that their experience in Lagos differed from what they experienced in other states.