BusinessDay

Rash of prison breaks on Buhari’s watch

No fewer than 10 jailbreaks have occurred during the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, with 6,000 inmates escaping from various correctional centres across the country.

Statistics show that the first major jailbreak during Buhari’s administration occurred at the Koton Karfe Correctional Centre, Kogi State, on June 19, 2016, with about 13 inmates escaping from the facility.

In August of the same year, 15 fled the Nsukka Correctional Centre, Enugu following an attack on the facility by gunmen.

On June 4, 2018, gunmen also attacked the Medium Security Correctional Centre in Tunga area of Minna, the Niger State capital, freeing over 200 inmates. Similar attacks on the Oko and Benin correctional centres were carried out by terrorists, freeing about 2,000 inmates on October 19, 2020.

Three days after, the Okitipupa correctional centre in Ondo was attacked and 58 inmates regained freedom.

Read also: Kuje prison attack: Minister admits Insurgents had superior weapons

In April 2021, the Owerri Correctional Centre, Imo State, was attacked and about 1,844 inmates were set free.

This was followed by the attacks on the Kabba Correctional Centre, Kogi, in September 2021, where about 250 were set free.

The attacks at the Abolongo Correctional Centre in Oyo State also led to the escape of 837 inmates.

Last week’s attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, led to the release of over 800 inmates, with the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorist group claiming responsibility for it.

Jeremiah Useni, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in an interview with BusinessDay on Friday, blamed the escalation of terrorism and banditry on the growing influence of “kidnap for ransom and the absence of political will to deal with the issue”.

Useni, a retired lieutenant general in the Nigerian Army, also blamed what he sees as “division” among the security agencies for the lingering security challenges.

“During our days in the military, we were one united body. Unlike what you find today when loyalty is to different groups and clans,” he said.

Useni said government take firm actions in dealing with the current security challenges.

Jail breaks in Nigeria since 2016 till present and the number of escapees
Jail breaks in Nigeria since 2016 till present and the number of escapees

He said: “Banditry or terrorism, whatever you chose to call them, are thriving because of the benefits they are getting. We have never witnessed this kind of large-scale kidnapping for ransom and as long as you continue to pay ransom, more people will join. There is no doubt that with ransom, you are encouraging the bandits. But if we deal with them decisively, things will be different.

“In our time, we never allowed that. Even under the military government, if you are a serving governor and you do the wrong thing, you are removed. We know that this is a civilian government and they do things differently, but even when as a person, you try to advise the government, they look at which party you belong to, rather than assess your advice to see if there is anything good to be taken from them.

“But it should not be so, those in charge should listen. Even if we are in the same party, I should be allowed to criticise the policies of the government, rather than see such a person as an enemy.”

Useni called on the government to work with retired military officers whose resourcefulness could help the country tackle insecurity.

Lawrence Alobi, a former FCT Police Commissioner, lamented that the security situation has been allowed to linger.

“The government appears confused and overwhelmed, no doubt and this is indeed sad,” he said, blaming the absence of strong interagency collaborations for the crises facing the nation.

“We must go back to the drawing board. We must also weed out those bad elements within the system that expose security strategies to the enemies. It is indeed sad that we have allowed the situation to degenerate to this level,” he said.

According to Alobi, unless urgent and drastic actions are taken to deal with the incursion of ISWAP into the FCT, Nigeria may be sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

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