By Kuni Tyessi
A total of 1,993 inmates escaped Tuesday from Benin and Oko Correctional Centres in Edo State, when hoodlums who hijacked #EndSARS protests in the state launched attack on the facilities.
In statement signed by the Director of press and public relations of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Mohammed Manga, the attackers came in large numbers, bearing dangerous weapons and attacked the officers on duty.
The ministry said the situation had been brought under control while security in and around custodial centres nationwide had been beefed up. It also said investigation had commenced to determine the full impact of the attack.
The statement read: “Two Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Custodial Centres in Benin City and Oko in Edo State were attacked yesterday by protesters purportedly under the #ENDSARS aegis, freeing (at the last count) 1,993 inmates in legal custody and looting the centres, including the weapons in their armoury.
“They came in large number, bearing dangerous weapons and attacked the officers on guard duty. They were unmistakable on their mission, which was to force the cells open, free the inmates and carry out other nefarious activities.
“The situation has been brought under control while security in and around the custodial centres nationwide has been beefed up. Investigation has commenced to determine the full impact of the attack.
“Peaceful protest is legitimate and guaranteed as a fundamental right of citizens, operating as individuals and groups. However, attacking a custodial centre is a criminal act which detracts from the advertised objectives of the movement and capable of imputing impure motives to its drivers.
“It must be reiterated that the custodial centres are high security zones. The primary duty of the institution is to keep custody of convicted criminals and awaiting trial suspects; this comes before their reformation. It is integral to the justice administration system.”
It stated that the integrity of the custodial centres was therefore fundamental to justice and inmates of the centres were expected to pay their dues to society, undergo reformation and be reintegrated into society as changed-for-better persons.
He added that when this process is disrupted in any way, the integrity of justice and societal renewal is subverted, with dire and unimaginable consequences.
“Most of the inmates held at the centres are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes. Their being let loose gravely imperils lives and property. It is an unacceptable and intolerable threat to national and communal security.
“Government’s primary duty is to protect lives and property and keep the people safe. We shall not be shirking in our responsibility and we shall not disappoint the people.
“We urge the #ENDSARS protesters to remain peaceful, embrace dialogue, screen their rank and file and flush out those with criminal intents and, more importantly, steer clear of the custodial centres.
“This is to assure Nigerians, especially Edo State residents, that in conjunction with other security agencies, we have commenced the tracking and apprehension of all the escaped inmates before they do any harm. Anyone who notices any person or persons that might have escaped from the custodial centres should, as a patriotic duty, inform the nearest security agency,” the ministry said.