The Kuje jail break

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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