By Madu Onuorah
The Spokesperson of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Francis Enobore, on Monday afternoon issued a troubling account of Sunday evening raid by yet unidentified terrorists at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Jos, Plateau State. The centre, at the time of the attack, had 1,060 inmates, comprising 560 pre-trial detainees and 500 convicts.
The gunmen stormed the facility in large numbers with sophisticated weapons and immediately made for the main gate where they engaged the NCoS armed squad personnel in a gun battle before breaking into the prison compound.
The statement said that sister security services were mobilized to assist the armed guards cordon the perimeter wall and the entire area. Yet, the terrorists left behind killings and tales of woes.
By Enobore’s Press Statement, all the invading terrorists but one escaped with 262 inmates. The mass of NCoS and sister security agencies killed just one of the attackers who was held up in the prison. And the attacking terrorists went on killing spree, gunning down nine inmates and one NCoS Armed Squad personnel. Another NCoS personnel was shot in the hand while six inmates were also injured. So far, of the 262 escapees, only 10 have been recaptured, leaving 252 at large.
Indeed, the invasion of Jos Prison is strangely intriguing. How did the inmates escape from the prison? From the gates or they broke the walls. How come the gunshots did not arouse the curiosity of security operatives of the security agencies around the prison facility? How did such a large number of prisoners leave the vicinity without trace?
It is such an embarrassment if one looks at the location of the prison. It is not an institution tucked away outside the Plateau State capital. No. it is located within a supposedly secured area. Look at the institutions adjoining the prison. They include the headquarters of the Department of State Security (DSS) which is across the fence, the Police Area Command and barracks, the Police ‘A’ Division, Plateau Police headquarters, Plateau State Prison Command headquarters, the Plateau State High Court complex and the headquarters of Operation Safe Haven.
I am in a shock that these rag tag terrorists could easily infiltrate such a security zone, perpetuate its dastardly act of rescuing its priced inmate colleagues, and escape with them, along with others. Something is actually not right here. Something is missing. And the headquarters of the agencies whose State or regional offices are located within the precincts of the prison should rather start demanding for answers as this is a shame of a nation. This is an embarrassment of monumental proportions.
I don’t know the story that the NCoS, Police, DSS or Operation Safe Heaven has to offer traumatized Nigerians. And to think that these hoodlums slipped into the Prison facilities fully armed, and in a gestapo style, beat our security network hands down and walked away with their looted top prized targets calls for a somber reflection on the state of our institutions. Nigerians demands explanations and urgently too. The Sunday tragedy in Jos prison calls for a Judicial Inquiry. This is a jail break too many.
The Controller-General of NCoS, Haliru Nababa, must step up to account, along with his officers and men. Not only must all the perpetrators of the prison invasion and the ones before it be hunted down, they must face the full wrath of the law. It is clear that some things are not right within the NCoS system.
One can just overlook the conflicting Press Statements by the NCoS and the Police as they are all, a usual, trying to outdo each other in putting up some pretty good face on an ugly, damaging situation. Clearly, there is unending creeping decrepitude of dysfunctionality across the land.
It seems that for the NCoS, these attacks on their facilities have become normal. It shouldn’t be. What came out from the average Nigerians’ point of view is that it looks like there is collaboration somewhere. And this becomes more so as the Prison authorities have never for once revealed the identities of the inmates of these centres attacked, the one that escaped, the ones that died or the ones that were rearrested. There has been no accountability by officials of the Correctional Service.
This is the time for the Ministry of Interior and the Correctional Service headquarters, both at the State and national headquarters, to be held accountable. Let them start by telling Nigerians the names of the high profile high profile inmates that escaped from the Jos centre. Then, roll the names of others.
And let the punishment for each of the officer/s whose negligence caused such regular invasion of inmates start. Since these attacks started all across the nation, not one official of the Prisons have been held to account. Perhaps, this is why it has continued. It is time for a new leaf. This shame must stop. We are made a laughing stock each time things like this happen. I cry for Nigeria.
Madu Onuorah is a veteran Defence Correspondent and Publisher of Global Upfront Newspapers (GUN)