Ring True BY Yemi Adebowale
Phone 08054699539 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola should be embarrassed as the man supervising the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) after the terror attack last Sunday at the Jos Medium Security Custodial Centre. The persistent jailbreaks across the country show ineptitude at the ministerial level. I’m not sorry to say that the leadership at this level is deficient. The Controller-General of the NCoS, Haliru Nababa should also be ashamed of his role and statements pushed out so far after the Jos jailbreak. The post-attack accounts of the NCoS show frightening incompetence. Aregbesola and Nababa have no business remaining in office a day longer. This should be the standard if we want to move this country forward. I’m surprised that they are yet to resign
During the attack, the terrorists freed 262 inmates, some suspected to be their members. They entered the Jos correctional centre unhindered, operated for hours and left unimpeded. This is the same centre surrounded by an armada of security agencies. There is the Plateau State Police headquarters/Police barracks in front of the custodial centre and the DSS behind it. The headquarters of Operation Safe Haven is also within the neibourhood. Yet, terrorists entered easily and came out unchecked. What a country!
A day after the attack, instead of burying its head in shame, the NCoS issued a statement saying one of the attackers trapped in the facility was neutralised in an exchange of fire between the armed squad of the service and the gunmen. Scores of terrorists entered the facility, set free hundreds of inmates, and all the NCoS achieved was killing just one of the gunmen trapped in the custodial centre. The truth is that the armed squad of the NCoS simply abandoned their posts when the better armed terrorists arrived. Other security agents around also failed to respond appropriately. This is the level Nigeria has deteriorated.
The NCoS boss, Nababa, promised to go after all the terrorists, vowing that they would face the full wrath of the law. How many of the terrorists that attacked Owerri, Benin and Oyo correctional centres has Nababa apprehended, months after the attack? Not a soul! Has security improved in all other correctional centres after the attacks? It’s an emphatic No! Nababa was just showboating. This man has nothing to offer this country.
By last Tuesday, Nababa had realised his folly. He then blamed inadequate funding for the inability of the NCoS to deploy technology for manning custodial centres nationwide. The NCoS boss admitted that the guards on duty on the day of the attack in Jos were overpowered.
As for Aregbesola, he recently confessed that 4,860 inmates of the Nigerian correctional centres escaped following successful jailbreaks in Benin, Owerri, and Oyo, among others. Only 954 of that number had been rearrested. As the supervising minister for the NCoS, Aregbesola has failed woefully in his critical role of protecting Nigeria’s correctional centres. I can boldly say that this minister has failed because he is not focused on his job. He has been spending more time and resources on his Osun State politics where he runs parallel ward, local and state executives of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Aregbesola appears more concerned about this.
The most painful part is that Aregbesola has been misusing the personnel of the security agencies under his Ministry for political gains in Osun State rather than positioning them appropriately to secure the correctional centres. The facts are there. A recent report of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), confirms this. The Association reports: “HURIWA has observed that on a weekly basis, particularly on Thursdays, armed men from the Correctional Services and those of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), are stationed at the venues where The Osun Progressives (TOP), a caucus of the Osun State APC suspected to be loyalists of Aregbesola, who are laying claims to the leadership of the APC in the state, hold their meetings.
“Again, reports have it that on Saturday, August 14, this group, alongside some suspected political thugs, under the protection of the armed men from the NSCDC, allegedly attacked the state secretariat of the APC, wherein some persons were reportedly injured in the process.”
HURIWA reports further that on the 16th of October, 2021, while Osun State’s APC held its Congress at the Osogbo Stadium, where all heads of security agencies in the state and INEC were present, only the NSCDC personnel and its leadership were absent for no other reason than political manipulation, “instead, they went to another part of the state to provide cover for alleged Aregbosola’s political loyalists who also claim to be holding a state congress.”
It adds: “In fact, NSCDC men were seen on national television wielding weapons and standing behind the former State Secretary of the party, Rasaq Salinsile, who announced himself as the chairman of the party in the state on a day NSCDC personnel ran riot and shot ceaselessly and sporadically into the air in the Ogo Oluwa axis of the state’s capital, causing avoidable panic.
“More worrisome is that there are indications of clear communication gaps between the Office of the Commandant General and the Minister`s Office for the deployment of tactical and combatant teams of NSCDC to all correctional centres in Nigeria, which was allegedly declined by the Minister
“However, there was an alleged express approval from the Minister for the transfer and deployment of hundreds of NSCDC officers to Osun State to protect personal buildings and provide security covers for persons fighting proxy political wars on his behalf. To show the import attached to these over and above the statutory mandates of the NSCDC, Osun State Commandant of the NSCDC, Mr. Emmanuel Ocheja, personally leads most of the operations.”
Aregbesola has failed to convincingly defend these allegations. Well, they are so difficult to defend. The facts are glaring. It’s appalling that this minister has not been fired.
On the flip side, the Senate on Tuesday mandated its Committee on Interior to carry out a full scale investigation into the causes of jailbreaks across the country. Accordingly, the upper chamber resolved to summon Aregbesola, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and Nababa to determine the status of correctional centres nationwide, with a view to finding out the challenges in order to prevent recurrence.
For me, this is another waste of time by the Senate. The problems are glaring, compounded by the ineptitude of Aregbesola. It is the political will to do the needful that is lacking. NCoS guards are poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly motivated. The personnel are also inadequate. Above all, leadership for the NCoS at the ministerial level and at its headquarters is lacking. Nababa and Aregbesola must go if this country is interested in the progress of the NCoS. This is the only way forward.
Still on the Disgraceful Lagos Panel’s Report
Honestly, members of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into police brutality and #Endsars protest at the Lekki Toll gate should hang their heads in shame for producing a disgraceful report. They simply repackaged all the social media reports on the “killings” and sent them to the government. A panel mandated to investigate “killings” sent in speculative stories. This is repulsive and disgraceful. I’m happy the White Paper released by the Lagos State Government on the report pointed out all the holes and rightfully described claims of killings as speculative. While disputing most of the claims in the report, it insisted it “is full of discrepancies, irregularities and inaccuracies (with claims of deaths of victims) even when some paragraphs of the same report revealed different claims and assertion.”
For those still supporting this shameful report, I have selected some key undisputable facts in the White Paper, which I urge these cynics to look at dispassionately.
On the list of 11 deaths reported, the White Paper noted that two of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salam, Folorunsho Olabisi as Nos. 37 and 38). Furthermore, the person listed, as No. 46, Nathaniel Solomon, who testified as a witness and petitioned the panel in respect of his brother, who he alleged died at the toll gate, was himself listed as having died at the toll gate on 20th October 2020. Listing a person that is alive among those said to have been killed at the toll gate renders this report useless. The panel could not even do a thorough job where human lives are in focus.
The panel claimed it confirmed nine deaths but recommended compensation for one. Haba! Why? The answer is obvious. They were speculative deaths. Only one person came to the panel to say he lost somebody at the toll gate. Even that one was dubious. The White Paper noted: “Another substantial inconsistency in the JPI Report was the award of compensation to only one (1) out of the alleged nine (9), listed as ‘deceased’, which showed that the JPI itself had doubts as to the deaths of eight (8) other allegedly deceased persons on its list. See page 304 of the JPI Report.”
The government also picked hole in the justification for the award of reparation to one Serah Ibrahim, saying she was neither a petitioner nor a claimant before the JPI: “Miss Ibrahim (listed as No. 14 on page 304 of the report) got N10 million. She was neither a petitioner nor a claimant before the panel. On page 179 of the report, Ibrahim testified on oath that she did not have any petition before the panel; neither did she have any claims for compensation.
“This award to Serah Ibrahim is also contrary to the provisions of Section 13, Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015, which prescribes that only witnesses requested or summoned by a Tribunal of Inquiry are entitled to witness fees subject to consent of the Attorney General. Serah Ibrahim did not testify at the request or summons of the Tribunal. See pages 17-18 of the report for the list of summoned witnesses.”
There were obvious fundamental inconsistencies in the findings of the panel regarding deaths at the toll gate, and the state government rejected the claim because “the findings were clearly and manifestly not supported by evidence.”
The government said the panel attested to the fact that there was nothing contrary to the testimony of Professor Obafunwa, the pathologist at Lagos State Teaching Hospital, who said only one person died at LTG of gunshot wounds on 21st October, 2020.
It stated: “The JPI’s finding of nine (9) deaths is, therefore, irreconcilable with the evidence of Prof. Obafunwa, that only one person died of gunshot wounds at 7:43pm at LTG on 21st October, 2020. Having held
that there was no evidence before it to the contrary, the question is, where did the panel then get its finding of nine deaths?
“The irresistible conclusions to be drawn from the JPI’s acceptance of Prof. Obafunwa’s testimony that only one person died of gunshot wounds at LTG on 21st October 2020 is that there was no massacre at LTG, contextual or otherwise. The findings of the JPI that nine people died at LTG on 21st October 2020 from gunshots fired by the military are based on assumptions and speculations.”
I concur that the inconsistencies and contradictions in the entire panel’s report, particularly concerning the number of persons who died at the Lekki toll gate on 20th October 2020, and their cause of death, rendered the panel’s findings and conclusions totally unreliable. The only good thing about the report is that it indirectly confirmed there was no massacre at the toll gate on October 20, 2020. I rest my case.