Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) on Sunday said six of its officers died in last Thursday’s jailbreak at the Abakaliki Prison facility, Ebonyi State.
A statement signed by Mr. Francis Enobore, the Prisons Public Relations Officer, on behalf of the Controller- General of Prisons (CPG), Mr. Ja’afaru Ahmed, noted that 10 others, including both officers and inmates sustained injuries.
The CGP attributed the recent jailbreaks in Kuje, Koton-Karfe and Nsukka prisons to the near abandonment of routine cell search practice.
The fracas which led to the death of the six officials, started when the prison officials were about to carry out routine cell-search in the morning but the inmates in a particular cell resisted the exercise.
The statement said: “They suddenly became riotous, broke other cells and released the inmates.
“They eventually broke into the workshop to arm themselves with dangerous weapons and severely attacked some staff trapped in the yard while others made for the main gate and pulled it down.
“Meanwhile, the Prisons’ Armed Squad and men from other security agencies on guard outside the perimeter fence were firing warning shots to deter the rampaging inmates but a number of them rushed out and escaped.”
The attempt by some of the prisoners was however resisted by the combined team of armed personnel who prevented what could have turned into a catastrophic security situation.
The statement added: “Regrettably, at the end of the fracas, six prisoners died and 10 others were injured. Six prison officers were also severely injured.
“However, the injured staff and inmates are responding to treatment with some already discharged from the hospital.
Ahmed, according to the statement, has set up a 3-man panel to carry out a detailed investigation into the incident in order to establish both the immediate and remote causes of the riot.
He commended the officers and men of the Abakaliki Prisons for successfully foiling the attempted jailbreak and also thanked officers of other security agencies that promptly responded in resisting the jailbreak noting that such synergy was essential in maintaining peace and good order in the society.
The CGP said routine cell-search is a tradition in the prison usually carried out as a proactive security measure to ensure that prisoners do not keep dangerous items that could aid escape or compromise the safety of their fellow prisoners or staff.
“Abakaliki prison was built in 1946 with an installed capacity of 387 inmates but as at Thursday August 18, 2016, the prison had a population of 920 prisoners out of which 811 are awaiting-trial Prisoners, leaving just 109 as convicted inmates,” the statement added.