The terrorists who attacked the Medium Security Custodial Center in the Kuje area of the Federal Capital Territory Tuesday night were said to have shared transportation fares to the inmates to aid their escape.
Over 800 inmates were said to have escaped when the terrorists struck, but 400 of them have been recaptured while some of the inmates returned to the prison of their own volition.
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Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) had claimed the attack.
Daily Trust reliably gathered that after the attackers successfully gained entrance into the prison yard, they told the inmates that were ready to escape to come out.
One of the security officials who coordinated the rescue mission that recaptured many of the inmates confided in one of our correspondents that some of the recaptured prisoners told them that the terrorists did not force any of the prisoners to leave, but asked those interested to join them outside and those not ready to remain.
After gathering outside, the sect said to have already perfected their own escape root allegedly carried all their members in a vehicle already arranged for the purpose before sharing monies to the other inmates to assist them in their escape.
The source also said they were sternly warned that non-members of the group should not follow them in their vehicles or the person would be killed.
Another security source said many of those arrested were caught in the Kwali area of the FCT and the surrounding villages with the aid of vigilantes, hunters and farmers with coordination from security operatives.
As widely reported by the media, scores of terrorists raided the prison Tuesday night, freeing hundreds of inmates after shooting and bombing their way into the prison yard.
Daily Trust learnt that it took less than one hour for the insurgents to gain access to the facility while security operatives fled.
“The terrorists moved everyone out of the facility to an open place where they gave Quranic lectures for about 15 minutes before they started sharing transportation fares to their members whom they came to rescue. It was very clear they came prepared,” a security source said.
A news outlet, FIJ, reported that the jailbreakers spoke in Ebira, in addition to Fulani and Hausa.
The report said the insurgents had so much free time on their hands that they first delivered a 15-minute lecture to inmates before setting them free, an insider who witnessed the horror show from start to finish has recounted.
“Quite a few of them understand Ebira; they preached in Ebira, Fulani and Hausa. And there were many of them. They surrounded the facility, as big and well-equipped as it is, and still had more than 20 of them inside the prison. That tells you there were so many of them,” it quoted a source.
Residents mull leaving Kuje correctional area
Meanwhile, some residents living in the Kuje correctional centre area have started considering relocating following the attack.
Our correspondent who visited the area observed that security operatives at different checkpoints were conducting stop and search on vehicles and combing nearby bushes, markets and other places.
Our correspondent observed that some commuters appeared apprehensive when troops of 176 Guards Battalion attached to a checkpoint, were searching vehicles moving out the satellite town.
A resident, Babafemi Olagoke, explained that he and his neighbours were watching WAFCON match when the incident happened Tuesday night.
He added that many residents of Shetuko fled to the nearby bush and hid there when sounds of the explosives continued.
Another resident who identified herself simply as Mrs Rafat said continuous gunshots and sounds of explosions woke her and children up.
Mrs Yetunde Ajanaku, one of the residents, said she had informed her husband to let them relocate from the area in order to avoid apprehension.
She said the terrorists had earlier distributed some papers around the area notifying prison officials that they would strike one day.
‘’People would just pick their papers, look at it, see it and dropped it,’’ she added.
FG goes after fleeing inmates
The federal government yesterday says it is leaving no stone unturned to recapture all the fleeing inmates.
A statement by Sola Fasure, a media adviser to Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said all checkpoints had been put on alert in an effort to track the fleeing inmates.
The attackers, who used explosive devices and came through the main entrance and the fence of the facility respectively, also left three personnel of the service seriously injured.
A total of 879 inmates escaped from the facility during the attack with about 70 of them suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The minister said, “We are working with the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the National Security Adviser as well as other intelligence and security agencies to ensure that the attackers and the escaped inmates are captured and returned to custody.
“As we speak, security personnel are combing the whole area, up to a distance of 100 kilometres radius, looking for them.
“All checkpoints nationwide have been put on alert. More than 400 of them have been brought in and more are still coming.”
Aregbesola appealed to all residents to be calm but vigilant, urging them to report all suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest security agency around them.
“We appeal also to doctors and medical workers to treat and then immediately report anyone with gunshot wounds to the law enforcement agency,” he added.
Meanwhile, the minister has directed that a full investigation into the incident be carried out, adding that anyone found complicit would be dealt with.
The statement also said the minister had directed that all correctional facilities in the country be fortified; that all personnel be on alert to avoid recurrence.
Relevant authorities must be sanctioned — Senate President
Senate President Ahmad Lawan yesterday said the Tuesday attack could only have been possible with the collaboration of insiders within the nation’s correctional system.
Lawan spoke when he led a delegation of the Senate leadership to access the level of damage at the correctional facility.
He also faulted the Nigerian Correctional Service for not providing Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) at the facility and others across the country.
The senate president asked the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, to include a request for the provision of CCTV across maximum and medium correctional centres across the country in its 2023 budget proposal to the National Assembly for approval.
Lawan said, “The attack on this correctional facility is symptomatic of the failure of security failure. The attack is only a culmination of the failure.
“We were told that an estimated 300 terrorists attacked this facility. They came on foot, and I believe they should have been detected.
“In the first place, 300 people will not come for an operation like this without planning. Planning must have taken a week, a month or a bit more.
“I believe that our security agencies should have picked this from their tracking systems in the FCT.
“Secondly, having gone round the facility itself, we are disappointed that this facility does not have Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, something that would record and give you details of what is happening and sometimes record the events.
“Now, as this facility lacks a functional CCTV, there’s no record of what happened, except narration. But if we had CCTV, at least the records would have been there and analysis made, and arrest will be based on the information from the CCTV.
“Thirdly, going from one cell to another to release people, specifically, those that are known to be insurgents, tells a lot of stories. It may not be far away from an insider job, someone who is either working in this place or must have worked here.”
Lawan said a proper investigation must be conducted and those found wanting to be sanctioned.
“Where people fail to do their job properly, and they have been given that responsibility, they should be asked to take responsibility.
“If people don’t take responsibility for their failure, then it means nobody would bother to do what is expected of their office or the job that the person has been given,” he said.
Service chiefs, minister must go — Ohanaeze
The leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has asked the service chiefs and the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, to resign their positions owing to the persistent insecurities attacks on institutions, especially in the North.
Failure to do so, the group advised President Muhammadu to dismissing them and make fresh appointments where the three major regions will be represented.
Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, in a statement issued yesterday described the attack as a national disaster and a shame to the nation’s security operatives.
The group charged the president to stop one sided appointments, which it noted, had continued to cause more harm to the lives and property of the citizens.
“If that is not done, Nigerians will continue to live in fear until something good is done by Mr President who has chosen to be adamant and has continued to appoint service chiefs from one side of the nation.
“So we wish to condemn and express our condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones in the Kuje prison attack by suspected members of Boko Haram insurgency.
“Also, we also wish to use this opportunity to call on President Muhammadu to do the needful by dismissing the service chiefs including the Minister of Defence, and make fresh appointments where the three major regions will be represented,” the group added.
By Baba Martins, Joshua Odeyemi, Abdullateef Salau, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja) & Nabob Ogbonna (Abakiliki)