The Federal Government has put on hold the planned repatriation of Nigerians in Tanzanian prisons on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
It explained that the 60 Nigerians whose discharge had been perfected, would continue to stay in the correctional facilities until the COVID-19 disease had been curbed in the country.
The government had last week announced that it had secured the release of 60 out of the 73 Nigerians serving various jail terms in Tanzanian prisons.
It said the Nigerian Mission in Tanzania had paid 330, 000 shillings (N55,544) for each of the 73 Nigerians in prison, noting that the Nigerian Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr Sahobi Gada, had secured the release of 60 inmates, while arrangements were being made for the discharge of the remaining 13 citizens.
Most of the convicts were arrested for alleged drug-related offences, while a few of the offences bordered on immigration law violations.
But giving an update on the planned evacuation of the ex-convicts, the Head, Media and Public Relations Unit, Nigeria in the Diaspora Commission, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, disclosed that they would not be evacuated until the pandemic had been overcome.
Balogun, who spoke to Punch correspondent in Abuja on Monday, stated that the inmates would continue to stay in the prisons until the proper arrangements had been made for their repatriation to Nigeria.
He said, “Our citizens in Tanzanian prisons can’t be repatriated home for now, the evacuation would be carried out after the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“Though they have been discharged by the authorities, they would remain in prison custody until they are released to the Nigerian ambassador to Tanzania who would ensure their evacuation to Nigeria.”
The NiDCOM spokesman added, “The arrangement had been concluded but it was stalled by COVID-19. So, after the pandemic, the ambassador would continue with the process of repatriation.”
He expressed the hope that the Tanzanian authorities would grant clemency to some categories of inmates.