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GUNMEN FREED OVER 4000 PRISONERS IN 1 YEAR: It’s a time bomb waiting to explode –Ejiofor, others

• S’East may not escape impact of Owerri jailbreak for years – Forensic investigator
• #ENDSARS protest caused much havoc –CSP Haruna
• Incident increased crimes in Delta –DC, Correctional Services

A retired Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) of Police, Mr. Peter Ogunyanwo, has described as a time bomb waiting to explode attacks on some correctional facilities in some parts of the country by gunmen and freeing over 4,000 prisoners. According to Ogunyanwo, the obvious implication of jail breaks is known to many people.

It requires a little analysis or analysts to tell you that these criminals are let loose and that more crimes will be committed as criminals continue to go on the rampage. Similarly, a former Commissioner of Police, Mr. Emma Ojukwu, also said it’s unfortunate that in the last few years, the country has had incidences of jail breaks after attacks from within or from outside.

It portends a lot of danger to good governance, the management of law and order and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system as deterrents to further crime, he added. In his contribution, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, a security consultant and former Director with the Department of State Service (DSS), said the country needs to upgrade the correctional centres and equip both the warders and the police for effective safeguard of the facilities.

While security experts agonise over the about 4,063 inmates said to have escaped from some correctional centres in parts of the country, the Prison authorities said they are on top of the situation, saying that over 404 of those that escaped had been rearrested. Recall that recently, officials of the Kogi State Correctional Centre, said about 240 prisoners escaped after unidentified gunmen attacked the facility.

The Kabba Custodial Centre incident was the second mass jailbreak this year in Nigeria, which is struggling with multiple security crises. The attackers blew up the prison’s perimeter fence to gain entry, according to reports. Ogunyanwo believes that the escaped prisoners would continue with their criminal displays. He said: “If for instance, a murder suspect gets out of jail, that would mean more murder, likewise a robbery suspect would continue from where he stopped before his arrest because that is the only trade they know.

“What needs to be said however is for the police to be empowered with more equipment to be able to curtail the incidents of jail breaks in future. “Prisons too should be enhanced because it is actually their duty but the police are complementingthat; so, both have to be empowered to be able to collaborate to prevent attacks on prisons. The government should also try to address the rot in the correctional centres.

“Probably it is like an insider job but what is important is for people, who are securing the place to be alert at all times, well remunerated and well equipped to be able to fight back when such forces would want to break into those centres.” In a similar vein, Ojukwu said if people are in prison and they have not gone through the whole hog of rehabilitation, reconstruction and certified from the evil of criminal tendencies, if they have not been properly corrected and they jump out either by their will or help of somebody else, they would continue with their trade.

“When a criminal is circulating unduly, he creates more problems for law enforcement officers, the judiciary and custodial centres and for them to escape from prisons or custodial centres means there is a lot that Nigeria needs to do about its prisons. “We need to reinforce the security, pay more attention to them. For criminals to raid the centres and release their colleagues, it shows their own bravado, they think they can overpower the system and bring out their own people. “It is dangerous for the Nigerian society. But, we also have to look at the issue of congestion in prisons, a good number of times we have noticed that there are more inmates awaiting trials in the prisons.

“That alone would congest the facility and there would be feeding problems and fear of spread of diseases. And also, they are not trained against committing another crime, for this reason they make plans to escape from prison and any opportunity they come across they try to make use of it. “Another reason jailbreaks persist has to do with the size of the prisons as we all know most prisons were run by the colonial masters and the perimeter fences are not wide enough.

“There are different ways I think the problem of jailbreak can be solved. First, it can be solved through arbitration, which means not every crime committed should be taken to the court or not every crime should be punishable such that the end product should be prison. “Also, officers should be well trained so that they will be able to manage the affairs of the prison and other matters regarding the custodial centres. And the government should equally rehabilitate the prison,” Ojukwu said. Ejiofor also happed on decongesting the prisons and providing the officers with the needed equipment to fight the intruders. He said: “Prison officers as well as the police should be well equipped to be able to ward off the criminals instigating these jail breaks.

“If that is not done, the idea of putting a stop to the incessant jail breaks would only be a dream; we need to walk the talk to stem the tide.” Meanwhile, the Delta State Commissioner of Police, Ali Muhammed Ari, has attributed part of the criminal activities in the state to the jail break. The CP said there’s no tangible record of criminals returning willingly, apart from the two suspects that were re-arrested over their involvement in another criminal activity. He said: “Jail break has negative implications on national security because most of them return to the streets to kidnap, rob and engage in cult clashes and killings.”

He attributed the incessant cult war in Warri, Ughelli and Sapele in recent times to the escape of some dare-devil prisoners during the #ENDSARS protest. He however said he may not be surprised if most of the hardened criminals who escaped from correctional centres across the country would resurface and be used to prosecute elections in 2023. The Deputy Comptroller of the Correctional Centre, Mr Okonkwo Adimagbua, has also said it was like a dream when the centre was attacked.

“We thought they were ENDSARS protesters but before we realised what was happening, it became full scale destruction. The destruction of the facility aided the escape of 26 out of 1,007 inmates in the facility before the intervention of security operatives. This has increased criminality in the society because they did not return,” he said. Following the jailbreak that happened in the Owerri custodial centre on April 5, 2021, no fewer than 1660 inmates, mainly hardened criminals, are still at large. A total of 1,844 inmates had broken free and escaped after the prison was busted by unknown assailants on the eve of Easter Monday.

However, an impeccable prison source who confided in one of our correspondents, said that no fewer than 80 prison inmates who escaped that night from the Owerri Correctional Services had voluntarily returned to the custodial facility.

The returnees, he observed, “are mainly inmates on the awaiting-trial list, those who have small prison terms and those who are about to complete their jail terms.” The source recalled that about 36 inmates stayed back and did not attempt to escape on the night of the prison break.

He added that the present concern is that none of the hardened and condemned inmates who escaped had returned. “This is also understandable and expected, because it will take a miracle for a person who knows that his execution can take place any moment, to return after his freedom was given to him circumstantially, by those who broke into the facility.

“Most of the early returnee inmates were escorted back by their parents, lawyers and relations,” the source said. On the implication of the jail break to security in the state, a forensic investigator and tele-intelligence analyst, Mr. Iyke Ehirim, said: “For the next four years or beyond, the South-East and Imo State in particular, may not come out of the negative impact of that jailbreak in Owerri.

“I was part of the process that led to the capture of some of these criminals now at large and I can tell you, they are very dangerous. “Some of them, their arms were not recovered before they were incarcerated, but we are aware that they may have stashed them away in some secret places or buried them. “Now they are free, they would have dusted and oiled their firearms and jumped back into business. “To tell you the nature of what is to come if the authorities stay aloof, on the day of the jailbreak, they also attacked the police and carted away no fewer than 60 AK-47 rifles and one General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), which had about 1,966 live ammunition.

“It was eventually recovered by the Quick Intervention Team of the Imo Police Command. Some of the AK-47 rifles have also been recovered but there are still many loose firearms in the hands of criminals. “The South-East governors, particularly Imo State, do not seem to understand the scope of the threat the region faces, which is why it seems there is no decisive strategy yet put in place by the government to tackle the looming menace.”

In Edo State, about 1, 996 inmates escaped from the two major correctional facilities in Benin City and Oko, during the #EndSARS protest and out of which over 200 of them were recaptured by the combined team of security agencies in the state. The facilitator, Community Vigilante in Edo and Coordinator COVID-19 Enforcement, CSP Yusuf Haruna (Rtd), told one of our correspondents: “The #EndSARS protest caused so much havoc in the country, but the Edo State government did not turn to lamentation.

“Rather, we went back to the drawing board and formed various committees, which involved various security apparatus, and the correctional centres made available the identities of those inmates, and a platform was quickly created by the State ICT Department.

“The platform made available pictures and names of the inmates and displayed it on the internet, we copied all the security agencies to re-arrest the fleeing inmates, and that has been very helpful. “The Community Vigilante Security Network of Edo State has arrested over 200 people, profiled them, and returned them to prisons and some that went back to crime and criminality were arrested and returned to prisons. “You may see pockets of kidnapping and robbery, but the Community Vigilante Security Network in Edo State, in conjunction with the Police, the DSS, and other security agencies have worked to kick out these criminal elements from the town and they have now relocated to the forests.

“But that will be temporary as we have gone back to the drawing board, which is not what I will reveal to you now. The security solutions provided are already yielding fruits, as many of the kidnappers have been arrested. We have been building confidence in the people and today people can volunteer information on criminals.

“The vigilantes have been recruited and trained for the over 1,415 communities in Edo State, over 2,000 Special Constabulary for the 196 wards have been recruited and trained also.” However, a total of 114 out of 240 inmates who escaped from the Kabba Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kogi State, have been recaptured, according spokesman for the Correctional Service, Francis Enobore, in a statement made available to Channels Television. He had said: “Following the attack on the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kabba in Kogi State on September 12, and the swift intervention of the Comptroller- General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, a total of 114 escapees have been recaptured. “The CG who personally led a team to the Custodial Centre for on-the-spot assessment, directed an immediate Search Party Response Team to go after the escapees even as Security has been beefed up through the deployment of additional Armed Squad personnel to fortify the facility.” In like manner, the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) has said that 184 out of the 1,844 inmates that escaped from the Owerri, Imo State Custodial Centre, had so far been rearrested.

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