The Presidential Committee on Correctional Reform and Decongestion has released 122 children from the Borstal Training Institute in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The committee led by its chairperson, Ishaq Bello, the immediate-past and Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, facilitated the release of the children during their visit to the borstal institution recently.
The Federal Ministry of Justice, which is represented on the committee, had, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), deployed a Technical Team of 10 persons to the Borstal Training Institute, Ilorin.
Deputy Director of Information at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja, Modupe Ogundoro, said in a statement on Sunday that the technical team conducted an on-the- spot assessment of the conditions of the juveniles.
According to the statement, the team assessed a total of 225 students of the institution.
From the document made available by the institute to the team, the team noted that there were discrepancies in the admission of children to the facility, which flouted the purpose for which it was established.
Mr Bello, who was quoted to have frowned at the living condition of the children, noted that the institute was congested due to non-compliance with laid down entry qualification for admission.
He reminded authorities of the institute that it was established as a “reformation and rehabilitation centre to accommodate children between the ages of 16 to 21 years and not to be used as dumping ground.”
‘Borstal institute housed underage children, adults’
The committee found out that the institute also housed underage children and adult, among which are in secondary school, undergraduates and graduates.
“The qualifying age of admission is 16- 21 years. Anybody above 24 years has outgrown their stay and not fit for the institute. It is a breach of extant law establishing the Institute,”
He noted that most children were brought to the institute by their parents on various forms of charges such as truancy, theft, drunkenness, drug addiction, those who were beyond parental control.
The team said out of the children released, two of them who performed excellently in their West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations were encouraged with a scholarship award to tertiary institution by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
In her remarks, the Acting Director, Administration of Criminal Justice and Reform/ Secretary to the Committee, Leticia Ayoola-Daniels, said the visit to the institute was aimed at providing psychological support to the assessed juveniles for proper re-integration into the society.
She explained that the Assessment Team comprised the staff of Federal Ministry of Justice, two UNODC staff from Vienna, one from UNICEF, who were all very passionate about the assignment.
According to her, the team has handed over their report to the chairman and members of the committee to determine those to be released.
Mrs Ayoola-Daniels explained that the children who were released would undergo re-unification with their families and post-monitoring for an effective reintegration which could be achieved through the support of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Kwara State, UNICEF and other stakeholders.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Controller of Corrections/ Principal, Borstal Training Institute, Ishola Ola, said the mandate of the institution is primarily to ensure safe custody of the children.
She explained that the children held in custody were expected to be reformed, rehabilitated and eventually returned to the society as positively changed individuals who should be useful to themselves and the society.
The Federal Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the committee and UNICEF commenced the first phase of the Juvenile Decongestion Programme on September 29, 2020.
A virtual interactive session of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and states’ attorneys-general, heads of courts and the commissioners of women affairs of all 36 states of the federation was held.
The second phase commenced in May 2021 with the Committee/Assessment Team visiting remand homes in Lagos State and Borstal Institute in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
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