By Adibe Emenyonu
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has given the prisoners who escaped from the Benin Medium Security Correctional Centre and Oko Medium Security Correctional Centre last Friday to return voluntarily or face the wrath of the law.
The warning came following the recent jailbreaks at the two centres by hoodlums in the guise of the #EndSARS protest.
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) disclosed that 1,993 inmates escaped from their facilities.
Obaseki, during an assessment tour of the affected NCS centres and the police stations that were burnt in Benin-city, the state capital, by the hoodlums, in company of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) zone 5, Celestine Okoye; the state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo; representatives of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), among others, gave the order while speaking at the end of the on-the-spot assessment.
He lamented that the extent of destruction was massive, adding that it was against the spirit of the genuine #EndSARS protesters that went about their protests in a peaceful manner.
The governor said the government would not sit down and watch hoodlums operate in such a manner, adding that the attacks on the security facilities were orchestrated by criminally-minded people.
He, therefore, warned the escapees to willingly turn themselves to the Edo State Police Command in Benin-city for them to be returned to the correctional centres.
According to him, “You will agree with me that this is not in the spirit of the EndSARS protest. This is sheer criminality, while the real protesters were focusing on the reform of our policing system and not to destroy government properties, prisons, and release inmates.
“So, you can deduce that there were some criminal intentions behind these acts, as the EndSARS protest in state was hijacked by criminals and used the opportunity to release their colleagues who were held in our correctional centre.
“We condemn the act wholeheartedly and we expect that even the EndSARS protesters would join us in condemning this dastardly act. The government cannot sit down and fold its arms to allow the breakdown of law and order in our society, because everybody would be affected, and having undertaken the assessment and seen the extent of destruction that has taken place, we will now move swiftly into action.
“Fortunately, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, understanding the gravity of what has happened in Edo State, has asked the DIG, Celestine Okoye, to come to Benin-city to put the situation under control.
“We are also fortunate that the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces has allowed the military to join the police in stabilising the situation to bring things under control.
“I want to use this situation to thank the law-abiding citizens of the state for having the presence of mind to call while different parts of the state were being attacked in the guise of EndSARS protest. We now have a problem with hooliganism and sheer brigandage in the state, and that we will not be accepted or tolerated in Edo State.
“We know that some of the inmates may have been released by their plan and others used the opportunity to get out of the facilities. We are using this opportunity to appeal to all inmates who have escaped from our correctional services to come back on their own before the close of business next Friday.”
Also speaking, Edo State Controller of Correction Centre, Mr. Babayo Maisanda, confirmed that 1,818 inmates are still at large, while 163 have either been recaptured or secured.
He expressed appreciation for the concern shown by the governor, and called for his assistance and support in keeping the prison system operational.
Also, DIG Okoye said the police were doing their best to arrest some of the hoodlums who attacked the police facilities and the correctional centres.