The 3,906 inmates still on the run

RECENTLY, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, unwittingly exacerbated public fears over the frightening state of insecurity across the country. Rather unabashedly, he declared that no fewer than 3,906 inmates were still on the run after a number of jailbreaks in parts of the country, but that the Federal Government had the capacity and wherewithal to recapture the fleeing inmates, including convicted hardened criminals. “How long can they continue to run from the state? The state is a patient bird. You can run, but you can’t hide. We have their biometrics; whenever and wherever they appear to transact business, their cover will be blown,” he said.

It is imperative to situate the minister’s assurances against the Federal Government’s poor record. There have been at least eight jailbreaks in the last one year, and a large proportion of the inmates remain on the run. This scenario speaks volumes about the performance of the Federal Government in ensuring the general security of life and property in the country.  Between 2017 and July this year, at least 4,307 inmates were believed to have escaped from correctional centres. In 2021 alone, more than 2000 inmates were freed in two jailbreaks. The figures included 240 inmates that were freed after gunmen invaded a detention facility in Kogi State with explosives in September 2021. On April 5, about 2000 inmates were freed in Imo State when gunmen blew up a correctional facility and later attacked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the state police command and freed a number of suspects. There were also cases of attempted jailbreaks at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre in Lagos State and a similar facility in Bauchi State, as well as Ubiaja in Edo State.

That convicted criminals are on the loose endangers the entire society. It is even damning that they escaped from lawful custody in the first place. And the trajectory of jailbreaks confirms that the authorities have not demonstrated the willingness to bring the outlaws back into custody. Till now, no one knows where the kidnapping suspect, Iskilu Wakili, is even though he was remanded in the Abolongo Correctional Facility in Oyo, Oyo State. The facility was attacked with dynamites by invaders who overpowered the officials. A total of 837 inmates who were still waiting trial escaped, and only 262 inmates were recaptured. Elsewhere, no less than 1, 993 inmates were freed in Oko and Benin jailbreaks, with many of them officially confirmed to be “convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes.”

Judging from the available records, the country has witnessed a spike in jailbreaks since October 2020. This raises questions about the security architecture in correctional facilities nationwide. It also harks back to the familiar pattern of collective amnesia after each incident, coupled with the government’s lethargic approach to tackling the menace. Rather than taking decisive measures to address the issue of poor intelligence units, obsolete equipment, inadequate funding and manpower, the government has often issued pedestrian official reactions. In short, the statements of officials on the incidents amount to a wild goose chase. That people are keeping quiet and cohabiting with the criminals who should be under thorough surveillance and reorientation underscores the obvious public loss of confidence in such critical reformatory institutions like correctional centres. It is akin to choosing to dine with a known devil in a country where there are said to be 70, 237 inmates as against the 57, 278 carrying capacity of the correctional centres.

Let there be concrete actions and less talk. The results of  pragmatic measures will be worthy of applause. There is no logic in paying lip service to issues that compound the existing insecurity across the land.


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