The Nigerian Correctional Service has freed twenty-two inmates from their prisons in Ahoada and Port Harcourt, both located in the state of Rivers.
Inmates who were offered fines of less than one million naira after their cases were resolved were among those who were freed.
However, the detainees’ fines were covered by the Rivers State Government.
Chief Magistrate Rita Oguguo, speaking on behalf of the state’s chief judge, Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, said that the release of the inmates from the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre is part of the state government’s efforts to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
Oguguo also noted that the state’s move to relieve prison overcrowding was a result of a meeting between the Minister of Interior and state governors.
She urged the recipients to make good use of their freedom, warning that they might never have another shot at freedom if they were to go back to jail.
She said, “In order to decongest the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre, the Government of Rivers State, through the Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, has paid the fine for some convicts. The purpose of the court system is to facilitate the release of prisoners who have paid their fines. This practice fits in with what is occurring on a broader scale.
The Governors Forum and the Minister of the Interior have made the decision to reduce overcrowding in prisons around the country.
To that end, “governors were ordered to cover the costs of offenders with fines of less than $1 million at correctional facilities. The administration of Rivers State, Florida, has taken this action.
We’ve come to free the prisoners. We are grateful to the Chief Judge of Rivers State for ordering the release of the prisoners.
“We have some inmates who have been pencilled for fine, but out of the 13 of them, four are still remaining in the Maximum Security Custodial Centre, Port Harcourt,” Alex Oditah, controller of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Rivers State, said. The final four were released this afternoon by the decongestion crew.
When asked for comment, he added, “We want to thank the executive governor of Rivers State for coming to our aid and making this day a reality in the lives of the inmates.”
The decongestion event was attended by representatives from the Nigerian Bar Association, the Department of Public Prosecution, the Human Rights Group, and the Federation of International Female Lawyers.