Prison attackers wore masks, black dresses, were about 50 —Hunters
Consistent attacks on prisons coordinated, says Aregbesola Makinde directs CCTV installation •13 fleeing inmates nabbed in Osun Iskilu Wakili, Sunday Shodipe not in Abolongo —DCG
THE Oyo State commander of the Nigeria Hunters Council, Comrade Taoheed Olanrewaju, has disclosed that the armed men who attacked Abolongo Custodial Centre in Oyo State on Friday disguised in black dresses and masks to hide their identities.
Speaking on Sunday when the Nigerian Tribune was at the prison, Olanrewaju said he was called by his men at about 9:55p.m. that there were gunshots at Abolongo Custodial Centre.
He said: “I mobilised the men and got there at 10:23 p.m. We met many security operatives who had been shot. We rescued those we could.
“From where we laid, we could see them (gunmen) wearing black dresses and black masks. I saw up to 50 of them. One could see that they were well trained.
“We knew they might want to flee through the back of the prison yard, so I told six of my men to go there and lie in wait.
“As they silently moved, they sighted some of the attackers approaching and fired shots at them, bringing down two of them.
“But unknown to them, some of the attackers had laid in the surrounding bush and fired shots back at our men, killing two of them also.
“On my side, I neutralised four of the attackers and also shot at the four tyres of one of the vehicles brought, but all the dead were taken away by the gang, while they also drove the bus away with its deflated tyres, with its doors left open. They were able to go with the bodies since there was no one to help me.”
On whether he could recognise the attackers and their origin, Olanrewaju replied that he did not know, adding that anyone saying that he could guess their tribe in the dark would be lying.
“We saw them leading three men from the custodial centre. The men were protected in the front, back and both sides as they were being led them away.
“When the inmates were released, I was the one who rescued the head of the inmates and helped the correction officers to put over 200 in safe custody. By 4:30 a.m., we were out again to Owode junction. I got four of the inmates in a truck going to Ibadan from Ogbomoso. We also found some android phones from them,” he added.
Also, the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, on Sunday, described recent attacks on the nation’s custodial centres as premeditated, planned, coordinated and meant to make Nigeria unsafe and ridicule the government.
Describing external attacks on custodial facilities as a rarity hitherto, he noted that the Federal Government had observed that the pattern of attacks on custodial centres in Owerri, Benin, Kabba and now Oyo were not random happenings.
Speaking during an inspection of the Abolongo Custodial Centre in Oyo, which came under attack on Friday night and some inmates freed, Aregbesola vowed that there would not be a repeat of guards being overwhelmed, adding that the Federal Government was retraining officers and putting extra safety measures to ensure custodial facilities are safe.
Noting that the consistent attacks on custodial centres began with the #EndSARS protests of last year, Aregbesola said the Federal Government would not rest until every inmate who escaped from custody is captured, whether dead or alive.
Stating that the Federal Government had records of all the inmates, including their biometric data, which are being forwarded to the INTERPOL, Aregbesola said security agencies were on the trail of all who had escaped from custodial facilities across the country and would be apprehended.
Aregbesola said: “The spate of attacks on our custodial facilities, the last of which occurred here (Oyo) 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.
“External attacks on custodial facilities were a rarity hitherto. What was common, and for which our system had been well primed, was internal breach.
“But beginning with the spontaneous #EndSARS protests of last year which dovetailed into massive riots, there have been consistent attacks on our facilities in Owerri, Benin, Kabba and now Oyo. This is not just some random happenings. These are premeditated, planned and coordinated attacks meant to make Nigeria unsafe and ridicule the government.
“Last year, we had an unfortunate case of an escaped convict who went to kill those who served as witnesses in the case against him, before he was later arrested. Of course, he would serve the remainder of his term and go for fresh trial for escaping from lawful custody and the murder of the witnesses. But the harm had been done, no thanks to those who made it possible for him to escape from custody ab initio.
“We responded to the attacks by retraining our officers and increased the number of armed personnel in our facilities. But Kabba again proved a different kettle of fish with the sheer number of the invaders and the sophistication of their arms and incendiary devices they brought.
“Again, the Oyo attack came out of the ordinary. Nothing absolutely suggests that any such attack could happen or be possible, given the security measures we have put in place.
“Let me assure Nigerians of their safety of lives and property. Our custodial facilities are safe and we are putting extra safety measures in place, in the light of the observed pattern of the external attacks we have seen, to prevent any such occurrence in the future.
“This matter is being investigated and we shall leave no stone unturned to get to the root of the matter – the remote and immediate causes and the vulnerability of our system and personnel, if any.
“We are going after every single inmate who escaped from custody. We shall hunt them to the ends of the earth. All the security agencies in the country are on their trail. We shall not rest or tire until we bring the last one in, dead or alive.”
Within a small window, Aregbesola further said the Federal Government would pardon those who escaped from custody if they would voluntarily turn themselves in. In terms of numbers, the Assistant Controller of Prison in charge of the Abolongo Custodial Centre, Ongaji Adams, said 460 inmates out of 907 inmates were still at large.
“We have recaptured 378 inmates out of 907 inmates. 460 inmates are at large. 69 inmates never left the facility, and about three are injured.”
Asked about high-profile inmates in the custodial centre, Deputy Comptroller General (Operations) Tukur Muhammed, said neither notorious territorial warlord, Iskilu Wakili, nor notorious ritual suspect, Sunday Shodipe, was in the facility.
Muhammed said: “I want to say clearly that here, in this custodial centre, we don’t have any high-profile inmate. Iskilu Wakili, Sunday Shodipe are not here.”
Earlier, Governor Seyi Makinde paid an assessment visit to the facility, saying he had ordered the grading of the road leading to the facility and that Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) would be installed around the custodial centre.
He bemoaned that hundreds of inmates were on the loose, saying entry and exit points were being monitored, adding that efforts were in top gear to capture the fleeing inmates.
Meanwhile, about 13 inmates of Abolongo custodial centre have been nabbed in Osun State by the police.
Spokesperson for the police in Osun State, Yemisi Opalola, who made this known on Sunday, said the inmates would be be transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department in Osogbo for proper handing over.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, has described as saddening the way the attackers came with sophisticated weapons, destroyed the facility and set the inmates free. Oba Adeyemi said this when he paid an unscheduled visit to the prison at about 9:50 a.m., in company of his chiefs and some community leaders, including Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu. After inspecting the damaged areas, Oba Adeyemi urged the government to do everything possible to repair the places affected