THIS week, gunmen stormed the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Jos, Plateau State, causing pandemonium and mayhem. According to the authorities of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), one of the gunmen, who was trapped within the facility, was killed in a gun battle. A member of the Armed Squad personnel paid the supreme price during the duel while nine inmates also lost their lives. Public Relations Officer of the service, Mr. Francis Enobore, in a statement issued in Abuja, further disclosed that some of the attackers and a total of 262 inmates had escaped from the facility before reinforcement could come from sister services. Enobore, however, revealed that 10 of the escaped inmates had been recaptured, leaving 252 on the run. The statement said that the Controller-General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, condoled with the family and friends of the gallant officer who paid the ultimate price in the encounter, promising that all the perpetrators would be hunted and made to face the full wrath of the law.
The CG also thanked the officers and men of the security agencies for their assistance in bringing the situation under control and assured members of the public that the safety of inmates, including their care and support, would continue to be a top priority in his administration. The statement called for collaboration from patriotic individuals to apprehend the fleeing inmates and to volunteer credible intelligence that could nip such ugly incidents in the bud. According to the Head of the Facility, Correctional Centre Jos, Samuel Aguda, suspected cattle rustlers from Barakin Ladi Local Government Area of the state were behind the attack on the facility. He added that some of the inmates took part in attacking his men because the invaders gave them rifles that they had seized from the Service’s armoury. Two of the escapees were later brought back by their parents.
To say the least, the attacks on prisons have become rather routine, with the Federal Government seemingly unable to rein them in. As we noted in previous editorials, there have been at least eight jailbreaks in the last one year, with a large proportion of the inmates still on the run. We noted that between 2017 and July this year, at least 4,307 inmates were believed to have escaped from correctional centres; and that in 2021 alone, more than 2000 inmates were freed in two jailbreaks. While 240 inmates were freed after gunmen invaded a detention facility in Kogi State with explosives in September 2021, some 2,000 inmates were earlier freed on April 5 when gunmen blew up a correctional facility in Imo State. There were attempted jailbreaks at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre in Lagos State and a similar facility in Bauchi State, as well as Ubiaja in Edo State. The Abolongo Correctional Facility in Oyo, Oyo State, was attacked with dynamites by invaders who overpowered the officials, and no less than 1,993 inmates were freed in the Oko and Benin jailbreaks, many of them convicted criminals awaiting execution.
It is clear that unless and until the Federal Government casts off its cloak of lethargy and addresses the key issues of poor intelligence units, obsolete equipment, inadequate funding and inadequate manpower, the situation will remain the same. It is saddening that 252 inmates from the Jos Medium Security Custodial Centre have now joined the 3,906 inmates on the run across the country, creating veritable danger for the society. It is distressing that prisoners undergoing rehabilitation in the various correctional facilities now regularly have to witness horror in the presumably safe custody of the centres. When there is a blaze of gunfire and human life is being lost left and right, it is a natural human reaction to run and try to escape, and so it cannot even be said with any degree of certainty that all the inmates who escaped from the Jos prison did so deliberately, with intent to cheat the system. And even if they did, it is sufficiently clear that it was the government that created an opportunity for them to do so.
If anything, the frequent attacks on prisons are a reflection of the lax security system within the country as a whole. In this regard, it is unnerving that, beyond knee-jerk reactions, no concerted effort is being made to stop the attacks, meaning that there is no end in sight. As we have said time and again, a government that is unable to guarantee the security of life and property, the raison d’etre of a state, has no business being in office. It is time the government buckled up and addressed the insecurity in the land.