September 24, 2022

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Kuje prison: FG declares fleeing Boko Haram suspects wanted, releases photos

•NCoS receives N500bn in seven years

The Nigerian Correctional Service received over N500bn in the last seven years, with about 83 per cent of its budgetary allocations expended on recurrent items, such as salaries, furniture, vehicles and others, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.

Despite receiving this sum between 2015 and 2021, however, the facilities of most of the 253 custodial centres across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory have remained in a decrepit state.

This is as the service has recorded no fewer than 18 jailbreaks and attacks, during which it lost 20 personnel and 42 inmates, in addition to vehicles and buildings that were destroyed by the attackers.

Recurrent expenditure priotised

Findings indicate that in 2015, the service budgeted N890m for capital and N44bn for recurrent. The following year, it allocated N14.4bn to capital and N54.8bn to recurrent while N16bn was expended on capital projects and N60.3bn on recurrent in 2017.

In 2018, the NCoS spent N16.6bn on capital items and N67.7b on recurrent expenditure. The following year, it spent N8.2bn on capital projects and N52.3bn on salaries and other recurrent items.

The 2020 budget indicates that the NCoS utilised N14.3bn on capital and N66.6bn on recurrent items while N12.7bn was voted for capital expenditure and N71.6bn for recurrent projects in 2021.

String of attacks

The service has lost several of its personnel across the country to riots, jailbreaks and attacks from armed assault in recent years.

For, instance, a riot and attempted jailbreak at the Abakaliki custodial facility in Ebonyi State on August 18, 2016, claimed the lives of six officers while eight inmates also died.

On December 27, 2017, the Akwa Ibom State custodial facility recorded an attempted jailbreak, leading to the death of four inmates. On June 3, 2017, three officials at the Niger State custodial facility died following an attack on the facility.  Another officer was reportedly murdered at a prison in Delta State during an attempted jailbreak.

On April 9, 2021, two officers and five inmates were said to have been killed at a facility in Bauchi State while three NCoS officers also died in Oyo on October 24, 2021.

On July 19, one officer and 10 inmates died during an attack on the Jos facility while another attack on same facility on November 28 lead to the death one officer and nine inmates. Reports also said two inmates died in Osun on January 4, 2022.

In the latest attack on the Kuje correctional centre on Tuesday, six persons, including an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and four inmates lost their lives while the perimeter wall and some cells were destroyed and seven vehicles torched by suspected terrorists.

The attackers reportedly freed 600 inmates, including 15 Boko Haram commanders who masterminded the March 28 attack on the Kaduna-Abuja train.

Analysis by Saturday PUNCH revealed that 1,226 escapees were recaptured out of a total of 6,620 inmates that escaped in 14 jailbreak incidents and attacks between 2016 and 2022.

Data indicate that 101 fleeing inmates were re-arrested in October 2019; 954 in 2020; 84 in April 2021; 144 in September; 262 in October and 401 on July 7, 2022.

The NCoS spokesman, Umar Abubakar, could not be reached for comment on why the service could not protect its facility despite its huge budgetary allocations. He had yet to respond to calls and SMS sent to him as of the time of filing this report on Friday.

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69 escapees named

Meanwhile, the NCoS, on Friday,  released the names and images of inmates with cases of terrorism who escaped from the Kuje Medium Custodial Centre in Abuja.

 “If you see any of these people, or have useful information which may lead to their recapture, please call 07000099999, 09060004598 or 08075050006 or any law enforcement agency nearest to you. We guarantee to keep your information anonymous,” the NCoS said in a press release.

Security Council meets

Following the Kuje jailbreak, the National Security Council met on Friday, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), presiding.

Present at the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Farouk Yahaya; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Isiaka Amao; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo; and the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba.

Cabinet members in attendance included the Ministers of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola;  Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

 Briefing journalists after the meeting, the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, said, “We are talking about the Kuje jailbreak that arose as a result of the attacks on the correctional centre by terrorists as well as the banditry attack that took place in Katsina around the same time, as all as the various attacks on Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.

 “Mr President was deeply concerned about these developments.”

According to him, the jailbreak succeeded because of the terrorists’ superior firepower.

Dingyadi said the security personnel deployed in the facility did their best to repel the attack but were subdued by the superior weaponry of the terrorists.

The minister revealed that some of the assailants were killed.

Asked why the terrorists could not be stopped, he said: “You see, these kinds of things, they happen and I want to assure you all that those who are supposed to play a role in ensuring that the attack was neutralised did their best but they could to neutralise it.

“I think what helped them was the number of people they came with and the superior weapons they came with. And because nobody anticipated it, the few people could not withstand the number that came. I think that’s what happened.”

Asked why no arrest was made, Dingyadi, “Some of them have been killed. But I can’t give you the number and I don’t know the number. Because like they used to do, whenever one of them is killed, they take their bodies away and you cannot know the number of people who have been killed. But definitely, quite a number of them were killed and many of them ran away with bullet wounds.”

He gave assurance investigation into the incident would continue.

“By the time they finish (the investigation), you will be able to get the details of what actually happened and why it happened.”

He said outcome of the investigation will guide the authorities on how to forestall future attacks.

He said, “Mr President has given clear directives to service chiefs to ensure that what happened at Kuje does not recur.

“Even when the President went to Kuje, he expressed surprise there.  He was concerned; he expressed his surprise as to how it happened. And that is why he quickly convened this meeting.”

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The police minister said the investigation would not be delayed as government knew that Nigerians were eagerly waiting.

 I’m disappointed – Aregbesola

The Minister of Interior, Aregbesola, expressed disappointed that the defence at the Kuje custodial facility was overpowered by terrorists.

Aregbesola, who spoke during his visit to the custodial centre on Friday, said, “We have a world-class facility here by any standard.  I am disappointed with the level of defence.We had enough men to protect this facility but unfortunately they couldn’t hold their position effectively for defence and that was the reason for the breach.

We had the highest grade of military, police and other security forces deployment for protection but strangely something happened some of which I cannot say on camera.

“Now, my position is so clear; I have declared since April last year that all our facilities are red zones and that whoever attempts an attack must not live to tell the story. I still maintain this.

The minister linked the latest incident to the military onslaught against terrorists in the North-East.

“The nation is experiencing asymmetric warfare. Yes, the insurgents have been degraded in the North-East of Nigeria; 61,000 of them are in our custody in the North-East, the effect of the effectiveness itself in degrading them in the North-East is what we are experiencing.”

 ‘Buhari should resign’

The Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party called on the President Buhari to tender his resignation over the failure of his regime to address the rising security challenges in the country.

The PDP said by expressing disappointment in the security agencies over the Kuje jailbreak, Buhari’s had admitted his leadership failure, saying the only honourable thing for him to do was to resign.

 “We know when people fail in office, the right thing is to either resign or be removed. The President should know and we expect him to do the needful,” the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said on Friday.

Similarly, the Labour Party described the Kuje jailbreak as an eyesore.

Its spokesperson, Arabambi Abayomi, said, “It is not only the Minister of Interior; the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, and the Inspector General of Police, if they have any morality at all, they ought to have resigned their appointments because this (jailbreak) is just one too many.

“The President ought to have resigned himself because the problems in Nigeria have overwhelmed Buhari, though he was the creator right from the start because he told you and me that he would take Nigeria from top to bottom.”

Also, the NNPP’s spokesman, Major Agbo, said, “Ordinarily, in a sane democracy, you don’t need to wait to be advised to go. But this is not the first time we are raising the alarm as to the unpreparedness of people who are serviced with taxpayers’ money to do their job. We have always said this, so if you are paid with taxpayers’ money, it is expected that you should be able to deliver the pedigree for which you are paid.”

CSOs knock President

The National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the Kuje attack exposed Buhari’s gross incompetence, adding that the President should have resigned long ago.

 “The President has shown a total lack of willpower to overcome the expanding frontiers of security challenges in the country. He should step aside and allow a much more competent person to take over,” he said.

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On his part, the Executive Director, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, said, “The government does not seem to learn its lessons from previous jailbreaks. Otherwise, the initial jailbreaks should have taught us certain lessons. We ought to have doubled our efforts to ensure that no stone is left unturned as far as the security of our correctional facility is concerned.”

The Executive Director of the Advocate for Peoples’ Rights, Mr Victor Giwa, said, “Nigeria is now like a country on auto-pilot; it has no control. Nobody is taking charge. It is an affront to the security system and to the people that a group of bandits can come into Abuja and enter Kuje and release about 300 prisoners.

“It shows that the system has collapsed. By now, people should be resigning or being made to resign.”

The Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, described the Buhari regime as “a baggage of extremists, terrorist sympathisers and people who do not love Nigeria but believe in the caliphate ideology.”

Ariyo-Atoye said, “The Buhari regime himself is culpable in the sense that it has refused to fight this war against terrorism.”

Tinubu condemns attack

The presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, strongly condemned Tuesday’s terror attack on the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory.

Tinubu, who spoke on Friday through his Media Officer, Tunde Rahman, charged the Federal Government to go after the attackers and the fleeing inmates of the facility.

“Tuesday’s terror attack on Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre is worrisome. These incessant attacks on government’s institutions and innocent citizens are a sad reminder that we still have a lot to do to put these evil forces in check.

“I totally condemn this dastardly attack. The government must immediately go after the attackers and fleeing inmates of this facility,” Tinubu said.

NCoS plans decongestion

 The Rivers State command of the NCoS said it would partner relevant agencies to decongest its facilities now housing 4, 403 inmates, including 442 on death row.

The State Controller, Felix Lawrence, disclosed this while speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt shortly after the send-forth and reception ceremony for the outgoing State Controller and the new Controller in the state.

“As of this morning, we have a total of 4,403 inmates. For death row, we have 427 male inmates on and 15 female inmates.

“We will have a kind of rapport with the Chief Judge of Rivers State, so that there will be constant jail delivery to ensure that inmates get justice as soon as possible.”

AGF prosecuting terrorists

Meanwhile, the Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations to the AGF, Dr Umar Gwandu, has said that the government is already prosecuting the 5,000 terror suspects in custody.

He said, “I want to put on record that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been and will continue to discharge its statutory responsibilities diligently including, but not limited to the prosecution of suspects.

“Prosecution of suspects entails multiple layers of interrelated undertakings.

From the foregoing, it is evident that suspects are being prosecuted and convictions are recorded. At the appropriate time, such information will be made available to the general public.”