The Kuje jail break
Two notorious kidnappers standing trial for abducting, raping and killing Mrs. Edith Chinedu Aliyu recently executed a daring escape from the Kuje Medium Security Prisons, near Abuja. The two inmates, Maxwell Ajukwu and Solomon Amodu, used a ladder to scale the prison’s high wall when Muslim inmates were breaking their Ramadan fast in the prison courtyard at 7pm. The two inmates’ escape had earlier set off reports that leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) Charles Okah had escaped from Kuje Prison. However, the Prison’s Public Relations Officer Francis Enobore described reports of Okah’s escape as untrue.
Two weeks before the jail break, one of the escaped inmates, Ajukwu, converted to Islam, apparently to take advantage of the on-going Ramadan fast and to subsequently exploit the lax security system during the breaking of fast. A source said it was the practice of prison officials to allow Muslim inmates to stay outside late, against prison rules, to break their Ramadan fast. The inmates are normally locked up in their cells by 5pm daily but the prison authorities decided to extend the time till 8pm to enable the inmates break their fast and also pray. This was the security lapse that attracted Ajukwu to convert to Islam as part of his jail break plans. Although inmates were not to be outside beyond 6.30pm, it is alleged prison officers sometimes allow them to remain outside their cells until 9pm or even 10pm.
Preliminary findings indicate that the two inmates escaped at a point near the prison’s chapel, which was usually guarded by a prison officer who failed to report to work on that day. Also, no officer was posted to cover for the absent guard. After breaking the fast on that day, Ajukwu and his partner Solomon put up a ladder on the wall and jumped out. Both fled into the surrounding bushes before their escape was noticed. Regrettably, the two armed prison officers who were supposed to be on guard duty outside the prison wall were not at work during the jailbreak. Federal Capital Territory Controller of Prisons Daniel Ehindero has already detained the two offending guards in the same prison.
Minister of Interior General Abdurrahman Dambazau, who visited the prison, attributed the jailbreak to security lapses which he said he pointed out to prison authorities when he last visited the facility. Speaking shortly after he was briefed on how the inmates escaped, Dambazau said he told the former Comptroller General of Prisons about the security gaps he noticed at the prison. Apparently nothing was done to address them. The minister also hinted that a panel has been set up to investigate the incident.
Without any intent to pre-empt the outcome of investigations, we say that the relative ease with which the two suspects escaped from Kuje Prison suggests a conspiracy. The fact that some prison officers were absent from their duty posts suggests their involvement in a conspiracy between the inmates and prison officials. It is important to know how a tall ladder was lying around in a prison yard. The escapees also seemed to know that the armed guards outside the prison had deserted their posts. Otherwise, anyone who climbs a prison wall should expect to be shot. Top priority now is to apprehend the fleeing inmates. Nigeria Prisons Service should collaborate with other security agencies including the police and DSS to recapture them without delay.
Going forward, all the identified security lapses should be addressed immediately. Any officers that are found guilty of negligence of duty after due investigations, should be visited with exemplary punishment. Finally, it is time that the Kuje Medium Security Prison be upgraded to a Maximum Security Prison, given the high-profile nature of criminals as well as suspects held in there.