The Minister of State for Power, Housing and Transport, Suleiman Zarma, has secured the release of 36 inmates at the Gombe Main Prisons.
Mr. Zarma disclosed this while speaking with journalists in Gombe on Saturday shortly after the release of the first batch of 24 inmates for whom he paid off various sums of money levied against them as fines.
He said another batch of 12 inmates are awaiting the courts to resume after the holidays to formally initiate their release.
Mr. Zarma urged the prisoners to become better citizens and consider their experience while incarcerated as a turning point in their lives.
The minister said he was motivated to take the step following the recent release of 500 inmates in Kano by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He laemented the harsh conditions of prisons across the country, stressing that even though prison reforms are long overdue, “unless circumstances that led to the influx of persons into the prisons were addressed Nigerian prisons would remain congested and inhabitable.”
“In the first place, it is public knowledge that our prisons are over-congested. This facility was built for about 393 people but now hosts over 1000 people.
“Some of the persons we secured their releases today committed minor offences with very small charges. We think government would have no business keeping them here and feeding them at a cost possibly higher than what they are uppose to pay as fine,” he said.
The minister added that even though some of the released inmates may not be from Gombe State, he remains duty bound to secure their release.
“They can go and start their lives again so that they can be better citizens and contribute more to national growth. You can see most of them are not up to 30 years old, they are young people with potentials to make their mark in life given proper orientation,” he said.
The Deputy State Comptroller of Prisons, Ibrahim Gide confirmed that 36 inmates regained their freedom after the minister paid their fines. He described the gesture as a welcome development.
Mr. Gide advised the former inmates to go back into the society as useful citizens.
One of them, Daniel Ambrose, an indigene of Billiri local government area of the state, described the moment as a miracle while expressing gratitude to the minister.