An Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has appealed to the Minister of Internal Affairs Rauf Aregbesola, to free the 54 soldiers, who are currently being detained in prisons across the country.
The Director of MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, in a statement issued on Monday, in Lagos, said Aregbesola should consider releasing the soldiers as he planned to decongest the prisons within the next six months.
Akintols said though the minister had laid emphasis on awaiting trial inmates, the group is, however, appealing to him to extend the gesture to the 54 soldiers serving various prison sentences too.
He said the minister had good intentions; and that the idea was laudable, visionary and humane.
“The available data indicates that more than 70 per cent of correctional centres’ inmates are awaiting trial; this has caused severe congestion, forcing inmates to sleep in turns.
“They queue for hours in front of toilets, and this is dehumanising, degrading and inconsiderate.
“MURIC, however, is appealing to the minister to extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers.
The soldiers had already lost some of their men and officers due to poor equipment when they advanced on Damboa on July 9, 2014.’’
Akintola said that some of the detained soldiers were arrested for daring to complain to their commander that their weapons were too poor to confront better equipped Boko Haram fighters.
“They were sentenced to death in December 2014, but this was later commuted to 10 years imprisonment.
According to him, Nigerians are now aware that it is the case of the 54 soldiers’ that uncovered some irregularities in the army.
“We, therefore, contend that the 54 soldiers should be seen as heroes and patriots, instead of being treated as criminals who merely deserve to rot in jail.”
He said it was on these humane and compassionate grounds he was pleading with the minister to kindly extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers.
According to Akinola, 1,574 out of 1,761 inmates in Anambra are awaiting trial, out of the 600 inmates in Aba, only 113 of them are serving full sentences.
“The rest are awaiting trial; and expectedly, 80 of them have gone mad, which it is so pathetic and alarming.
Aregbesola recently said at a public hearing, organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Appropriation, that a committee had been set up to determine how the Federal Government could decongest the country’s prisons in six months.
According to the minister, the committee has started working with the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to achieve the goal.