Tension in Abuja over runaway Boko Haram members

Tension in Abuja over runaway Boko Haram members



Fears have gripped residents of Abuja and neighbouring states following revelation that no fewer than 64 inmates undergoing trial for terrorism and others numbering 879 inmates of Kuje Medium Correctional Service, Abuja, were among the escapees after the attack on the facility on Tuesday night.

Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, who made the confirmation after visiting the site, yesterday, emphasised that the attackers, mainly Boko Haram members, specifically came to free their members in detention.

Residents leaving close to the area said heavy gunshots which started at about 10.p.m. lasted close to an hour. They said it was not clear who the gunmen were but it was believed they were some criminal elements.

Though the minister said only one Civil Defence personnel lost his life during the attack, prison officers displayed three corpses as additional casualties.

A prison officer alleged conspiracy, claiming that despite the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), and submachine gun at the disposal of the security agents on guard, there was no attempt to deploy the weapon.

“The terrorists that came for the operation did not touch the APC and the submachine guns, but burnt down the official and personal cars beside them. There was no single resistance from the security forces on ground to confront the attackers. As of Monday this week, they had beefed up security around the prison following an intelligence report of a possible attack. They increased the numbers of the army, police, Civil Defence and our own armed squad, yet none of them was courageous enough to attack the terrorists.

“In fact, the Civil Defence personnel who lost his life was the only one who tried to display gallantry, but he paid with his life because he could not listen when the military, police and his colleague warned him to go into hiding. The response rate from the security guards was not encouraging at all.

“Inside the prison was completely empty in the morning because virtually all inmates escaped. From what I gathered, one of the terrorists had broken into the office they keep files and destroyed or burnt them not to trace any record about them. I also gathered that they made an attempt to break into Abba Kyari’s cell but it was difficult for him,” he explained.

Asked why the army responded too late and equally failed to act on the security report, the Defence Minister said: “If people give timely intelligence at the right time, I am sure we would have reacted promptly. But when it is not coming at the time you don’t expect us to react.  There is every likelihood that the situation is going to be interpreted on the basis of being quick or slow. From what we discussed now, I am sure that every security agent that came to Kuje Prison participated in every way possible to ensure that the prisoners did not escape. Our happiness is that many of them have been recaptured. There was reinforcement because the Brigade of Guards was fully in charge,” he said.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Shauib Belgore, explained that out of over 950 inmates in Kuje Correctional Centre, over 600 of them escaped adding that over 300 have been recaptured.

NCoS’ spokesman, Mr Abubakar Umar, in a statement, said the attackers broke into the facility using explosive devices through the main entrance and the fence of the facility respectively.

He confirmed that an NSCDC personnel was killed adding that three personnel of the NCoS were seriously injured. The slain officer identified as Inspector Ilyasu Abraham was deployed to the correctional facility three years ago.

Umar said the service would deploy its Corrections Information Management System (CIMS) in synergy with National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to track all fleeing inmates and return them to custody.

He also confirmed that DCP Abba Kyari and other VIPs held in the facility did not escape adding that they were presently in custody, hale and hearty.

Meanwhile, residents of Kuje Area Council have recounted their experiences, revealing that they saw sporadic shooting and inmates escaping in droves.

A resident whose house is a few metres away from the prison yard told Daily Sun that while some of the escaping inmates were shot on the legs to demobilise them, other stranded ones were picked.

Still struggling to overcome the trauma of the incident, a prison staff who was on duty during the attack told Daily Sun that a terrorist inmate had offered to accommodate them in his cell, but he rejected the offer and resorted to prayers for rescue.

“We prayed like never before and God answered our prayers because the attackers broke almost all the rooms except our own. How we survived is still a surprise to me,” the officer narrated.

Speaking when he visited the Centre, FCT Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello, ordered the Gomo of Kuje, Haruna Tanko Jibrin, to immediately summon meeting of village heads in and around the Area Council to ensure that no foreigner infiltrated the community and to fish out such person if it happens.

The minister, who visited the Correctional Service and was shown round the damaged facilities by the Controller General said he visited to see for himself the extent of damage done by the terrorists.

Security beefup

Security has been tightened in most parts of Kuje communities. Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) who went round the area, observed heavy security presence with fierce-looking armed personnel in areas considered as flash points.

Armoured tanks have been positioned around Kuje Prison junction, while various teams of security personnel in siren-blaring vehicles patrol the area.

The Police, in conjunction with other security operatives, have cordoned off the roads leading to the prison area and movements have been restricted in the area.

Police deploy special force

The Inspector of Police, Usman Alkali, has ordered deployment of the Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit, forensic experts and other special forces to speedily get to the root of the incident and ensure culprits were brought to book.

Police Spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said all relevant security agencies were working tirelessly to unravel circumstances surrounding it. (Daily Sun, except for amended headline)

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