Attacks on Correctional Centres: Effrontery against the Nigerian federation

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Since the #ENDSARS protests which saw the successful invasion of a prison in Benin, Edo State, with inmates set free, the attacks on Correctional Centres  have become a persistent phenomenon. Last Friday recorded another event strengthening the foothold of the phenomenon, with the attack on the Abolongo Correctional Centre in Oyo town, Oyo State by unknown gunmen who invaded the facility, setting hundreds of inmates free. In this particular event, it was gathered the gunmen attacked the facility with explosives last Friday night and set the inmates free. According to the Nigeria Correctional Service, Oyo State Command, 837 awaiting trial inmates escaped from the Abolongo Correctional Centre. A statement credited to the Public Relations Officer of the State’s Command,  Olanrewaju Anjorin, on Saturday, mentioned the suspected gunmen invaded the facility setting all the 837 awaiting trial inmates free, pointing out that the cell housing the convicts and the inmates were not vandalised. According to the statement, a total of 262 escaped inmates had been recaptured, while 575 were still at large. The statement had read in part: “The invaders arrived the centre heavily armed with sophisticated weapons and after a fierce encounter with the officers on guard, they gained entrance into the yard, using dynamite to blast the wall. All the awaiting trial detainees were forced out of custody, the cells housing the convicts and the female inmates were not vandalised.Meanwhile, a total of 262 of the escapees have been recaptured leaving 575 still at large. Following the directives of the Controller-General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, the State Controller, Noel Ailewon, has commenced the process of search and recapture after visiting the scene of the incident. Of this number, awaiting trial persons were 837 representing 92 per cent with just 64 convicts.”  Further reports revealed the total number of inmates who escaped were 907.

Following, the development,  the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde has  ordered that Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras be installed in all the correctional facilities in the state. Makinde who gave the order on Sunday when he visited the Abolongo Correctional Centre,  directed that the security cameras be linked with the state security situation room.

He was quoted, “This is shocking, unfortunately; we lost a soldier and an operative, also another person is on danger list at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, as we speak. In the main, investigation is still ongoing and we cannot say precisely whether this is an isolated event or the beginning of a wider issue that we have to deal with. But whatever the case is, we have made an assessment and taken some immediate decisions. We have challenges around the country; banditry, insurgency and terrorism. And we can only deal with those issues when we have the people in alignment with what the leadership is trying to do.

“Also, we are making a list of critical state assets that we need to monitor and I have also asked that the entrance and exit points into the state be monitored. We still have almost 300 criminals that are on the loose in the state. So, efforts will still continue to try and apprehend the criminals and bring them back here.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, under whose watch the Correctional Centres bear record on Sunday, who assured recapturing all the inmates during an inspection to the facility said, “The spate of attacks on our custodial facilities, the last of which occurred here on Friday night calls for serious concern, first in our society and secondly on your professionalism. This is unacceptable and we are saying enough is enough. The attack was unconscionable. Giving more details about those who escaped, Aregbesola noted that, 446 out of 907 escapees have been recaptured, whilst 69 never left the facility. As at the last count, 446 of the escapees have been recaptured leaving 392 still at large. We want to assure Nigerians that the service have an updated database of the escapees which includes their biometrics.”

While the Minister was quoted saying, “There shall not be a repeat of our guards being overwhelmed again. This is an anomaly that should never repeat itself,” it is only instructive that such assurance would only take effect if only efforts are engineered towards proactive mechanisms to fortify security archtincture in the Country with virile structures that foreclose the possibility of such effrontery on the State. The spate of attacks on correctional centres in the Country have been taking toll recently — an ugly phenomenon which appears to have been emboldened since the 2020 #ENDSARS protests. This year, several attempts and actual invasions have led to security operatives been overwhelmed and inmates set free, following break into the correctional facilities. Some of the attacks have recorded the death of a number of security operatives. September, last month, hundreds of prisoners had similarly escaped from the medium Federal Correctional Centre in Kabba, Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of Kogi State. Gunmen in their tens had attacked the prison centre which is on the Kabba – Lokoja highway, on a Sunday night through Monday morning, killing the military men keeping guide on the road before attacking the centre. In April, some gunmen had attacked the Imo Police Command Headquarters and a Correctional Centre with explosives and freed some inmates. The gunmen were said to have operated with no fewer than 10 vehicles overpowering the security guards at the police command.

Hoodlums on Thursday night, 21 October, had set the Isiala Mbano Local Government Area Divisional Police Headquarters in Imo state, situated at Umuelemai on fire. The gun-wielding hoodlums who set the suspects free struck amidst a downpour. Gunmen had similarly on March 19, set the same Divisional Police Headquarters on fire. Apart from freeing suspects in detention, the attackers had kidnapped one of the female cops on duty on that day.

While the ugly phenomenon of jail break is known to have been taking records of incidence in the South-south and the South-East as the North is known for attacks on security formations and military base, records of recent attacks on correctional centres in the South-west which the Oyo incidence took a toll of record, now reveals that no part of the Country is spared from the threats of such onslaught and effrontery. It has therefore become a national issue of concern which has graduated to threats to the Nigerian Federation. While  an attempted jailbreak at the Ikoyi Prison last October 2020 was forestalled, the break and overpowering of the Abolongo Correctional Centre incident with the setting of inmates free, is a red signal. It has thus, become of necessity that the Government from the Federal to the States intensify efforts to firmly coordinate measures towards building responsive system of proactive architecture against the reactive dispositions which have continued to expose the weakness of the prevailing security system in the Country. An attack on correctional centres with illegitimate freedom of inmates who are set loose do not only constitute threats to peaceful cohabitation in the Country, but also a gross attack on the Nigerian State as an entity.