In the early hours of January 25, 2021, gunmen stormed the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) in Owerri, Imo State, freeing over 1,800 prisoners and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. This was just the beginning of a series of jailbreaks that would shake the Nigerian criminal justice system to its core.
Over the course of the next year, there were several more jailbreaks across the country, resulting in the escape of over 4,000 prisoners.
These prisoners, many of whom were awaiting trial for serious crimes such as murder and armed robbery, are now on the loose, posing a significant threat to public safety.
Nigerian authorities have been working tirelessly to recapture these fugitives. The NCS has launched a nationwide manhunt, with the help of other law enforcement agencies such as the police and the army. However, the task of tracking down over 4,000 criminals is a daunting one, and progress has been slow.
The escape of these prisoners has highlighted the weaknesses in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. Overcrowding, poor infrastructure, and corruption are just some of the issues that have contributed to the jailbreaks. In many cases, the prisons themselves are not secure, making it easy for gunmen to gain access and free the inmates.
The Nigerian government has acknowledged these problems and has promised to take steps to address them. In March 2021, then Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, announced a plan to build new correctional facilities across the country and to improve the existing ones. He also promised to increase funding for the NCS and to provide better training for its officers.
However, these measures will take time to implement, and in the meantime the escaped prisoners remain a threat to public safety. The NCS has urged members of the public to report any sightings of these fugitives and has promised to reward those who provide information that leads to their capture.
The recapture of these prisoners will be a long and difficult process, but it is essential for the safety and security of the Nigerian people. The authorities must take swift action to address the underlying issues that led to the jailbreaks and to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Only then can the Nigerian criminal justice system truly serve its purpose of protecting society from those who would do it harm.
Nigeria Records 8 Prison breaks in 2 years
No fewer than eight prison outbreaks were recorded in Nigeria between 2021-2022 with over 4000 escapee inmates still at large.
Five prison breaks occurred in 2021 while three occurred in 2022 across the nation. It is interesting to note that 18 cases of jailbreaks occurred between 2015 to 2022 in Nigeria.
Below is a timeline of various prison breaks across the country.
First on 5 April, 2021, 1,844 inmates escaped Owerri correctional centre, Imo state, after gunmen attacked the facility.
It was alleged that the invasion was carried out by the Eastern
Security Network, the armed wing of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Also on 8 July, 2021, four awaiting trial suspects escaped from Jos custodial centre in Plateau state.
Another jailbreak occurred on 13 September, 2021, at Kabba Correctional Centre, Kogi state, where over 2,400 inmates were freed.
According to authorities, 114 of the escaped inmates were re-arrested. Also on 22 October, 2021, gunmen attacked Abolongo medium-security custodial centre, Oyo State.
The attackers freed 837 inmates in the process. However, authorities later said 262 inmates were recaptured, while 575 were still at large.
Furthermore on November 28, 2021, 262 inmates escaped from Jos correctional centre, Plateau state, after gunmen invaded the facility. Nine inmates were killed, while 252 inmates were at large according to government officials.
On 2 January, 2022, three inmates escaped from Mandala Custodial Centre, Ilorin, Kwara state.
Again on 13 May, 2022 , three inmates escaped from Agbor prison, Delta state following a downpour that washed away the northern perimeter wall of the prison.
Meanwhile on 5 July, 2022, 879 inmates, including 64 terrorists, escaped from Kuje Prison, FCT.
The Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, which claimed responsibility for the attack killed one security officer and injured three others during the raid.
The terrorist group attacked the Kuje medium-security prison with guns and high-grade explosives.
Jailbreaks: Why We Can’t Ascertain Number Of Fleeing Inmates – NCoS
The Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) said yesterday that it cannot ascertain the number of escapee inmates who were yet to be recaptured after various attacks on correctional facilities across the country, stating categorically that sensitive documents detailing such statistics were often destroyed by the attackers.
Fielding questions from LEADERSHIP, the service spokesperson, Abubakar Umar, blamed the absence of the needed statistics on the deliberate destruction of the data base of the various attacked facilities and other sensitive documents by inmates and, particularly, the #EndSars protesters , in a bid to wipe out useful information.
He said ” You know, one thing that they do ( internal and external attackers) do is to target two sensitive places each time they strike. Firstly, they destroy documents and attack our Armoury
Umar said, “For the purpose of being very sure and exact about the figure, we cannot for now ascertain the number of fleeing inmates, but we are making efforts to do that; we are getting the needed statistics from states and, in no distant time, the information would be shared.”
He went on: “Recall that in October 2020, Nigerians protested across major cities of the country against police brutality under the #EndSARS movement.
“The protests, which eventually led to the proscription of the special anti-robbery squad (SARS), was later hijacked by hoodlums and correctional facilities were burnt, vital documents destroyed, our Armory and other government buildings were attacked.”
He, however , revealed that close to 400 of the over 900 inmates, who fled the Kuje facility during a jailbreak on 5 July, 2022, had been recaptured.
The Kuje attack was one of at least 14 jailbreaks that occurred under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Correctional Service uploaded the data of the escapee inmates on International Criminal Police Organisation’s database.
The NCoS spokesman further revealed that the service had until the Kuje facility incident documented vital information using analog method.
“The NCoS attracted serious government attention thereafter, and has since deployed backup technology for any eventuality,’’ he said. “We can now boost of upgraded and improved measures as well as “well-fortified correctional facilities.”