Nigeria frees 4,000 prisoners to ease jail crowding

Fines totalling 585 million naira (651,000 euros) have been cancelled.

Thousands of detainees across Nigeria have been released from prison in an effort to tackle overcrowding, interior minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo said Saturday on social media.

The move marks part of a drive by Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was elected earlier this year, to decongest Nigeria’s overpopulated prisons.

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“Yesterday, we flagged off the release of 4,068 of the 80,804 inmates in our 253 correctional facilities nationwide, who have been held in custody due to their inability to pay fines,” Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo posted in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

He made the announcement after visiting the Kuje detention centre near the capital Abuja.

The ministry’s spokesman Ajibola Afonja told AFP that “only inmates whose fines do not exceed one million naira have been chosen to benefit from this mass release.”

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Afonja added that fines totalling 585 million naira (651,000 euros) have been cancelled.

Tinubu has made part of his focus while in power the integration of new practices in the prison system including more non-custodial sentences.

The United Nations says that Nigerian prisons have an overpopulation rate of 147 percent, and detainees can often wait years before being tried.

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