…1,161 Oko, 530 Benin prisoners still at large
Indications emerged over the weekend that, six months after at least 1, 826 inmates escaped from the Benin and Oko Medium Security Custodial Centres in Edo State, only 135 of them have been recaptured by security operatives in different parts of the country.
New Telegraph recalls that the inmates were set free by suspected hoodlums, who took advantage of the #EndSARS protests sometime in October 2020, to carry out simultaneous attacks on the two custodial centres in the South- South state.
Among the fleeing 1, 826 inmates, are condemned criminals, as well as others undergoing trials before courts of competent jurisdictions in cases bordering on murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes. Highly-placed security sources, who spoke with this newspaper on condition of anonymity, expressed disappointment that security operatives saddled with the responsibility of tracking, isolating and arresting the fugitive inmates, had yet to do so about six months after.
According to the sources, the security situation in the country may remain fragile, as long as hardened criminals – many of whom had either been sentenced to death, or undergoing criminal trials for offences ranging from kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and the like – remained at large.
Specifically, they feared that the yet-to-be-recovered inmates will join forces with other criminal elements, thereby worsening the insecurity currently besetting the country.
Providing an update on the twin attacks on the holding facilities in October last year, one of the top security operatives, said: “So far, I can tell you authoritatively that out of the 1,245 that escaped from Oko Medium Security Custodial Center, only 84 have been recaptured.
“What this means is that we are still on the trail and look out for the remaining 1,161 inmates that may have mixed with the society. “For Benin Medium Security Custodial Center, only 51 out of 581 inmates on the run have been rearrested/ recovered.
“Simple arithmetic will confirm that 530 of the inmates held for various crimes, are still at large, with consequential negative effects on security of lives and property.”
On whether the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), has meted out sanctions to top officials of Owerri Correctional Centre a week after the audacious attack on the facility by gunmen, another official, who spoke in similar vein, said it will be premature to do so, since the attack may have been externally- induced.
The NCoS had disclosed that a total of 1, 844 inmates fled the facility, after the attack that occurred in the wee hours of Monday, April 5. Hear him: “The headquarters (of NCoS) has to carry out investigations first because, as it stands now, we don’t know who is really at fault.
This is so because, it was an external attack; not internal. “If it were to be an internal attack, it would have been easy to determine what happened almost immediately. “But, since it’s external, you neither knew nor prepared for it. Look at the mob that came; over a hundred persons.
“They came with hand grenades, and the security guards were carrying just rifles. Will you stand there with your rifles, while they (attackers) are throwing hand grenades at you?
“Now, the investigation will be whether they (Owerri prison authorities) had a prior notice. If you had, what was your action? “If you didn’t take any action until it happened, then you are liable. But, if you didn’t have prior intels (intelligence report) of their coming, then that’s the problem.”
An official response was still being expected from the NCoS as at the time of filing this report, as the Service’s spokesperson, CC Francis Enobore, promised to call back for the purpose.