THE daring attack on Kuje Medium Security Custodial Center Abuja, by terrorists of the Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) sects has again, for the umpteenth time, brought Nigeria into the international scene for negative reason. The terrorists stormed the center on Tuesday night of July 5, 2022, and carried out an operation with reckless abandon and seemingly unchallenged too. This, however, is not the first time correctional facilities will be attacked but this recent one was particularly dramatic and humiliating as 64 members mostly commanders of the sects being held in the facility were freed in a commando style while two security officials guarding the facility were killed and several inmates wounded.
GOING down the memory lane, particularly from the events that took place as an aftermath of the 2020 #End Sars protest, over 5,000 inmates escaped from the various prisons across Nigeria. There have been incidents of jailbreaks in which some were successful while some were not. In October 19, 2020, the deputy comptroller of correctional center in charge of Oko Custodial Center, Edo State, West Amayo, confirmed that an attempt to break into the jail was repelled and the attack was unsuccessful.
TWO days after the Oko Custodial Center attack, the Benin Custodial Center located along the Benin-Sapele road was attacked by hoodlums. Also in April 15, 2021, joint forces from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Edo Command, and the Nigerian Correctional Service foiled a jailbreak attempt by inmates at a facility at Ubiaja, Esan South East Local Government Area. Yet, on October 29, 2021, a fight ensued among inmates at the Benin Medium Security Custodial Center on Sapele road in Benin City, and some of them made efforts to escape, but for the intervention of security agencies who restored peace to the facility.
IT was the turn of Ondo State on October 22, 2020 where about 58 inmates were released from the Custodial Center in Okitipupa local government after thugs broke into the facility. The attackers destroyed property belonging to the Custodial Center and wounded staff on the premises.
THE list goes on and on until the most recent one carried out on the Correctional Center located in the nation’s capital territory. This attack is dehumanizing and indeed a national shame. It is quite unfortunate that as usual, all we will hear is the condemnation of the attack without any proactive step to forestall a reoccurrence or bring the perpetrators to book.
TO say the obvious is the fact that the facilities in the Custodial Centers are nothing compared with the 21st century dispensation as most of them are outdated, installed over five decades ago. Moreover, the fact that the Custodial Center had high profile criminals, keeping them in one facility was wrong in the first place and this accounts for the reason why the attack could be so smoothly coordinated. This no doubt makes some to accuse the authorities of complicity and compromise. The internal corruption within the custodial centers across the nation makes this thinking plausible. A situation where cell phones are found on some inmates, besides some of them having unfettered access to their families and friends calls for worry. It shows indiscipline and gross dereliction of duty on the part of officials. The shortage of security personnel in and around the custodial centers also makes the facilities vulnerable.
THE deed has been done and the most important thing at the moment is to consider the possibility of preventing future reoccurrence as we hope that the criminals already released into the society would soon be tracked down and returned to the facility from which they had escaped. To prevent further attacks, we canvass that facilities in the Custodial Centers be upgraded to meet up with the modern day standard. It will not be a misplaced priority to have functional CCTV cameras in such facilities to monitor happenings in and around them.
THE menace of corruption which has eaten deep into the fabrics of most Nigerians and widely prevalent among the internal personnel of the prison should be looked into. Finally, government must live up to its responsibilities in increasing the staff strength of the Nigerian Correctional Service. Governors should as well be more proactive and courageous in signing the warrants of terrorists sentenced to death; if many of these terrorists sentenced to death had been executed; they would not have been alive to be freed.
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