Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move

Not Less Than 105 Inmates Flee Niger Prison, FG Worry , Reveals Next Move

Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move
Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move
Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move

The Federal Government may relocate many jails from city centres because of the growing urbanisation in the country.

The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, gave this indication on Thursday during a visit to the Suleja Medium Security Custodial Centre in Niger State, where 105 inmates escaped in a jailbreak on Wednesday night, after a rainstorm damaged sections of the facility.

The spokesman for the Federal Capital Territory command of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Samson Duza, said 119 inmates initially escaped but 14 of them were later recaptured by the security forces.

The FCT command of the NCoS is in charge of the Kuje and Suleja medium security custodial centres in Abuja and Niger State.

Speaking on the incident during a visit to the facility, the minister said, “The President has always talked about urbanisation eating into our correctional centres.

“You can look at the environment; it shows that we need to relocate a lot of our correctional centres and we need to relocate them away from city centres to create better space, security, and infrastructure.

“But as we have said, we are not here to make excuses. We are here to take responsibility. I want to assure you that we are talking to our sister agencies to make sure that we can synergize, collaborate, and ensure that there is a timely return of these escapees.

499 inmates

“This was a facility that was built to house 250 inmates. Before the incident, we had 499 inmates, which leads us to what we have been talking about -overcrowding in our correctional centres,” Tunji-Ojo explained.

He further highlighted the urgent need for reforms in the over 240 custodial centres nationwide.

Speaking to journalists after surveying the damage caused by the rainstorm, the minister attributed the breach to a natural disaster.

The minister assured swift action, emphasising the ongoing hunt for the escapees.

Tunji-Ojo pledged the Federal Government’s dedication to returning the 105 inmates to custody.

The minister said, “Because of the force majeure, the storm that happened, there was a breach of the outer wall of this facility, and some of the inmates escaped. The manhunt is presently ongoing. We will do everything humanly possible to make sure everyone is brought back.

“We have also looked at the cause of the matter because we must make sure that this does not happen again. Obviously, we can see that the walls are old, and unfortunately, there are certain responsibilities that we must take.

“But the most important thing is that we will do everything possible to restore sanity, to ensure that this does not happen in any other facility.’’

Recognizing the necessity for preventative measures, he acknowledged the role of the ageing infrastructure in the incident.

Taking responsibility, the minister vowed to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Tunji-Ojo said, “Obviously, we can see that the walls are old, and unfortunately, there are certain responsibilities that we must take.

Prevent jailbreak

“But the most important thing is that we will do everything possible to restore sanity, to ensure that this does not happen in any other facility.”

Tunji-Ojo emphasized the role of custodial centres as symbols of hope, reaffirming the government’s commitment to safety and redemption for all.

Speaking on the incident, Duza explained that the prison break followed a rainstorm that destroyed the Suleja facility on Wednesday night.

 The downpour caused severe damage to the custodial centre’s infrastructure, including a breach in the perimeter fence, allowing the inmates to flee.

According to him, the downpour also wreaked havoc on the surrounding buildings and part of the custodial facility, including its perimeter fence.

He said the service had immediately activated its recapturing mechanisms in collaboration with other security agencies.

“This gave way to the escape of a total of 119 inmates of the facility. But with the help of sister agencies, we have recaptured 14 of them and taken them into custody, while we are in hot chase to recapture the others,’’ he explained.

Ten fleeing inmates were recaptured early Thursday morning and an additional four were re-arrested later in the day.

Frantic prison officials were said to have stormed the Zuba motor park in search of the escaping inmates.

They reportedly searched commercial buses and taxi cabs as they widened the dragnet for the fugitives.

Duza stated that the NCoS was aware that many of its facilities were built during the colonial era, and had become old and weak, adding that the service was constructing new facilities to replace the old ones.

He added, “This is evidenced in the ongoing construction of six 3,000-capacity ultra-modern custodial centres in all the geo-political zones in Nigeria. This also includes the ongoing reconstruction and renovation of existing ones.”

The FCT NCoS spokesperson said the service would soon display the names and pictures of the fleeing inmates on its website.

Duza noted that the command was collaborating with other security agencies to recapture the remaining fleeing inmates, adding that their pictures and names would soon be released to the public.

He noted, “Our intelligence officers, armed squadron officers, in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, DSS (Department of State Servives), and other security agencies are combing the neighbouring communities to find the fleeing inmates. Very soon, we shall publish the names and pictures of the fleeing inmates.”

Security officials on Thursday night, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, said a total of 50 inmates had been recaptured.

But when contacted, Duza, told The PUNCH that he could not confirm the re-arrest of a total of 50 inmates.

Findings indicate that hundreds of inmates, who escaped during 12 jailbreaks in the last five years, have yet to be re-arrested by the security forces.

On October 28, 2019, about 122 inmates escaped from the Koton Karfe Correctional Centre in Kogi State due to the flooding that overwhelmed a section of the facility following heavy rainfall in the area.

A year later on October 19, 2020, about 1,993 inmates escaped from custody in the jailbreaks that happened in Benin and Oko, Edo state.

Also, On October 22, 58 inmates fled from the Okitipupa custodial centre in Ondo State during the #EndSARS protests.

Owerri jailbreak

On April 5, 2021, 1,844 inmates escaped from the Owerri correctional centre after some gunmen attacked the prison facility and the police command.

Furthermore, a year and eight months after the attack on the Kuje medium custodial centre in the Federal Capital Territory, over 500 fleeing inmates have yet to be recaptured.

The names, images, and prison identification numbers of the fleeing inmates who were declared wanted were sighted by our correspondent on the NCoS’ website.

It was reported that over 900 inmates, including 64 high-profile Boko Haram terrorists fled the facility during a jailbreak on July 5, 2022.

Security operatives later launched a manhunt for the escapees and about 421 were recaptured.

To recapture the others, the Federal Government uploaded their data to the International Criminal Police Organisation’s database.

However, over 500 fleeing inmates were believed to be at large.

On September 13, 2021, unidentified gunmen attacked the Kabba Correctional Centre in Kogi State, killing two security operatives. Before the attack, they also targeted a military checkpoint nearby. During the assault, 240 inmates were freed from the facility.

On October 22, there was an attack on the Abolongo Medium Security Custodial Centre in Oyo State which led to the escape of 837 inmates.

On November 28, about 262 inmates escaped the Jos correctional centre after gunmen invaded the facility.

In 2022, on January 2, three inmates escaped from the Mandala Custodial Centre, Ilorin, Kwara State

On May 13, after a downpour which resulted in the fall of the northern perimeter wall of the prison, three inmates took to their heels and escaped the Agbor prison, Delta state.

Speaking on the Suleja prison break, a former NCoS spokesperson, Mr Francis Enobore, said, “I can tell for free that if the service got enough allocation to execute that project, the jailbreak would not have occurred.

“As you are aware, the 3,000-capacity custodial centre (under construction in FCT) would have enabled us to cope with the challenges we are having here and there. We pray that things get improved.’’

In its ‘2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria, released on Tuesday, the United States underscored the significant challenge of overcrowding in Nigerian prisons.

 It observed that numerous correctional facilities were grappling with a staggering 50 per cent increase in the number of inmates beyond their intended capacity, revealing a systemic issue.

The report also pointed out that a notable proportion of these prisons, some with histories dating back 70 to 80 years, faced difficulties in meeting even the most fundamental standards of living.

The report stated, “Overcrowding was a significant problem. As of September, prison facilities had 50 per cent more inmates than designed capacity.

“Many prisons were constructed 70 to 80 years ago and lacked basic facilities. Some prisons had no facilities to care for pregnant women or nursing inmates.”

 The United States further emphasised that fundamental necessities like clean water and proper sewage systems were frequently absent, resulting in hazardous and unsanitary conditions within the Nigerian prisons.

Commenting on jailbreaks, a security expert and consultant, Kabir Adamu, in an interview with The PUNCH, said correctional centres were vulnerable.

He said, “The incident is another indication of the vulnerable state of some of our custodial centers.

“The integrity of the physical security features of some of our custodial centers is weak. This includes the walls, the surveillance systems, the doors, the windows, the lighting, and the inmate management systems.

“While unforeseen circumstances such as flooding cannot be avoided, factors such as fire and earthquake should be considered  in the security design. In the case of the Suleja Medium Custodial Centre it is old and its physical security is weak.

“The Nigeria Custodial Services should complete the construction of the new custodial centers and move inmates from the weak ones to the new places.”

Also, another security expert, Jackson Ojo said, “It is quite shameful about the incident that occurred today.

“Our custodial centres do ot need to be built like a poultry farm where wind or erosion can destroy them. The foundation of the rooftop should be fortified so that no natural disaster or internal or external aggression can sweep it away.

“The structures where criminals are being kept are not well-built. But how are we sure that it was wind or erosion that caused the escape of the fleeing inmates.”

Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move
Not Less Than 105 Inmates Escape Niger Prison, FG Reveals Next Move

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