Prison Breaks in Nigeria, a Ticking Time Bomb 

Due to the pervasive lack of security in and around correctional and custodial centres nationwide, prison breaks have so far resulted in the escape of over 7,000 prisoners from Nigerian prisons since 2015, with over over 5,000 recorded in just one year-2020. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that the recent attack in Kuje Prisons that saw the escape of 600 inmates, including 64 sentenced Boko Haram terrorists, has again brought to the fore the worrisome state of the nation’s security architecture and the looming danger ahead 

The incessant attacks on custodial facilities of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) to forcefully spring both convicts and awaiting trial inmates have become one danger too many. Aside the grave danger it portends to the society, it has become source of worry and an embarrassment to the nation’s security architecture.

Expectedly, with each jail break, the  NCoS, formerly known as the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), has remained in the eye of the storm. In fact, from September 2015 to July 2022, there have been about 15 jailbreaks across Nigeria, resulting in over 7,000 escapes.

From Bauchi to Sagamu, Ogun, Jos, Ondo,  Lagos, Ekiti, Minna, Kogi, Benin, Owerri and now Kuje, these jail breaks (not counting the foiled attempted ones), the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has recorded 15 successful prison breaks. 

Kuje Jail Break

The attack on Kuje Custodial Centre last week Tuesday was as damning as it came. From the blues, about 300 armed men stormed Kuje and pomped rocket  propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices into the custodial centre.

For over two hours they held sway as they went cell by cell to free inmates, including many top Boko Haram commanders held in the facility for years. 

According to Police Affairs Minister, Maigari Dingyadi, the  invaders  overpowered the minimal security presence at the facility as a result of their large number and superior fire power.

At the end five persons, including an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and four inmates, died during the attack.

According to the Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Army Battalion in Gwagwalada, Lieutenant Colonel Adisa,  over three hundred insurgents were behind Tuesday’s attack on the Kuje Prison, adding that only a total of 50 security personnel were on ground when they came armed with Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and other weapons. 

Escaped Inmates and Controversy over Figures

After the break in, several figures were thrown around about the actual number of inmates and convicts who escaped. The Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Correctional Service gave conflicting figures. 

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, said more than 600 inmates escaped from the prison which accommodated 994 inmates. He said many were recaptured and brought back to the prison.

But the NCoS spokesperson, Umar Abubakar, said 879 inmates escaped from the Kuje Prison with 551 inmates still in custody. He however claimed they  recaptured 443.

Release of Top Boko Haram Terrorists 

Perhaps, the most alarming part was that top Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists and their financiers were all released including Boko Haram second in command, Muhammed Sani, as well as Yusuf Ali Yusuf, Mansur Usman, Zakari Nabil, Sadiq Garba Abubakar and Yazid Usman and several others.

Identities of Escaped Inmates 

To expedite action on their re-arrest, the NCoS released a full list of the names and pictures of the escapees. The 69 fleeing inmates with terrorism-related cases were identified as Abdusalami Adamu, Abubakar Mohammed,  Abubakar Yusuf, Akibu Musa, Ismail Idris Abdullahi,

Abdulkareem Musa, Mustapha Umar, 

Abubakar Abdulrahman Habibu, Abubakar Mohammed Sadiq, Adam Lawal Muhammad, Amodu Omale Salihu, Bello Haruna, Faruku Waziri, Hassan Hassan, Ibrahim Musa, Idris Ojo, Ishaq Farouk and Mohammed Goni Kyari.

Others include Mohammed Guja, Bilyaminu Usman, Bukar Ali, Ibrahim Mohammed, Ikya Abur, Modu Aji, Mohammed Sani, Musa Abubakar, Mustapha Umar, Shehu Abdullahi, Suleiman Idi, Suleiman Zacharia, Sunday Micheal, Yakubu Abdullahi, Yasir Ibrahim Salihu, Yunusa Mukaiya, Abdulmannan Obadiki, Abubakar Mohammed Musa, Abubakar Umar, and Adamu Mohammed.

Still on the list was Abdulazeez Obadaki, Auwal Abubakar, Mansur Mohammed Usman, Mohammed Abubakar, Mohammed Jamiu Eneji Sani, Muazu Abubakar, Muhammed Sani Adamu, Muktar Umar, Nambil Zakari Gambo, Sadiq Garba Abubakar, Yazid Muhammed Usman and Yusuf Ali Yusuf.

The rest were identified as Ahmadu Hagola, Asama Haruna Kanti, Baluye Modu, Bassey Victor Kingsley, 

Diko Iko, Alhaji Bukar, Mohammed Saleh Buba, Mohammed Umar, Sani Mohammed, Umar Ahmadu Ladan, Usman Balarebe, Yahaya Adamu Abubakar, Yusuf Yakubu, Mukhtar Ussaini Khalidu, Musa Adamu,

Musa Umar, Onyemire Asagba, Rabiu Shaibu and Sahabi Ismail.

ISWAP Claims Responsibility 

After the blast and breakout, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway group of the Boko Haram terrorist group, claimed responsibility through a video where they showed themselves chanting their prayer as they shot sporadically into the air and set cars ablaze during the attack. They also reportedly delivered Quranic lecture to inmates before setting them free.

Blame Game

As expected, blame games were thrown and parried. Throwing the first salvo, President Muhammadu Buhari, under whose watch 15 jailbreaks have been recorded, blamed the intelligence gathering system for the security loophole.

During a visit to the incident scene before he jetted out to Senegal, he said: “I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it? I am expecting a comprehensive report on this shocking incident.”

Buhari was accompanied by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff. 

On Thursday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who toured the destroyed facility, also expressed disappointment with the intelligence system. 

Insider Connivance 

Still on the incident, the Senate President said it was successful because it was done in active connivance with some insiders at the facility, adding that the incident spoke volume about the failure of the country’s security architecture.


While the blame game was ongoing, it was the Senate President who delivered the sucker punch with his disclosure that there was no Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) devices at the Kuje Prison.

“Having gone round the facility itself, we are disappointed that there are no CCTV, something that will record or at least give you a view of what is happening and sometimes record the event.

“Now, this is a medium-security custodial centre. How on earth does a centre of this magnitude in the FCT not have any CCTV? It means we can say that all other medium security custodial centres across the country do not have CCTV”, Lawan queried.

He asked the Comptroller General of the NCoS to include a request for the provision of CCTV across maximum and medium correctional centers across the country in its 2023 budget proposal to the National Assembly for approval.

A Minister’s Disappointment 

Expressing disappointment, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said it was quite unfortunate that the assorted array of security forces guarding the medium security prison in Kuje could not defend the facility against terrorists attack.

He said “A platoon of the Nigerian Army with sophisticated weapons, the Nigeria Police Force, officers of the NSCDC, and armed officers of the Nigerian Correctional Service on ground during the time of the attack. We have a world class facility here by any standard. I am disappointed with the level of defence.

“We have enough men to protect this facility but unfortunately they couldn’t hold their position effectively for defence and that was the reason for the breach.

Kuje is the most fortified in the country, if fortification for security is the determinant of whether it is medium or maximum.

“It is medium by size but maximum by the security being put there. 

“It is very regrettable that this happened. Let’s put it in context. The nation was experiencing asymmetric warfare. Yes, the insurgents have been degraded in the North-East.

“We have 61,000 of them in our custody in the North-East, the effect of the effectiveness itself in degrading them in the North-East is what we are experiencing.”

Red Alert 

Given the calibre of escapees, the military, intelligence and security agencies were immediately placed on Red Alert to curtail any likely attacks.

Also, surveillance has been heightened in public places, highways and soft targets such as schools and open markets.

In fact, the Commissioner of Police, FCT, CP Babaji Sunday, said the command will intensify “robust stop and search operations, high level visibility policing patrols and surveillance of places of worship, parks, recreational centres and residential areas, and prompt response to any distress calls from across the FCT”. 


Pursuant to the release of identities, on July 9, 2022 at about 1:30am, one Hassan Hassan whose name and picture was amongst the escapees with Boko Haram/Terrorism Case was recaptured by the police operatives of the Nasarawa State Police Command at Keffi. The command said the suspect was transferred to a safer location while intensive search for other escapees continues.Calls for Sack Days after the attack, several calls have been made to sack those in leadership- from the minister of defence to his interior counterpart, to the 

Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa.

One of those championing the call is the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), who posited that the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, must be sacked with immediate effect over his failure to put an end to the incessant attacks on prisons in the country.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group said “The spate of jailbreaks under President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, is alarming and condemnable. Even under then-President Goodluck Jonathan, who had no military experience or background, jailbreaks weren’t as rampant as what Nigerians see these days.

“The frequent and recurring jailbreaks show the inefficiency of all those President Buhari appointed into office and his unwillingness to sack them show also that the President tacitly want the situation to continue to fester.

“HURIWA demands the sacking of the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; and his Defence counterpart, Bashir Magashi; for perpetual incompetence. We also call for a broad-based judicial panel of inquiry on prison breaks in Nigeria to be constituted.”

Grave Implications 

It would be pertinent to state the grave  implications of the  jail break given that  the criminals returned back to society. Continuous delay in their return means that they will continue to operate 

under the cloak of darkness to groom and perpetuate more atrocities.

These hardened criminals roaming the streets will inadvertently contribute to unprecedented insecurity across board.

These breakdown of security across the country has led to a surge in frequent prison breaks, kidnapping and banditry.

 Timeline of Prison Breaks

Under this administration, there has been 15 successful jail breaks with about 7,000 inmates freed. On October 19, 2020, Oko Prison in Edo was attacked during the EndSARS saga; on October 21, 2020, another Benin Prison break saw 1,993 inmates escape from the two facilities; on October 22, 2020 in Okitipupa prison break, 58 inmates were released.

Also, on April 4, 2021, in the Owerri prison break, 1,844 inmates were freed; on September 13, 2021 in Kabba prison break, Kogi, 240 inmates were freed; 

on October 22, 2021 in Abolongo prison, Oyo break, 837 inmates escaped; on 

July 19, 2021 in Jos maximum security prison break, four inmates escaped.

On November 28, 2021 in Jos medium security prison attack, 262 inmates were  released and 10 killed; on September 3, 2015 in Sokoto Remand Home break, 

13 inmates escaped; on June 4, 2018 – Minna Maximum Security prison break, 

210 inmates escaped.

On January 2, 2022, Mandala prison in  Ilorin experienced jailbreak and three  inmates escaped; on May 13, 2022 in  Agbor prison, Delta State, fence collapsed and three inmates escaped; on

October 7, 2017, the Enugu Maximum prison break happened and two inmates escaped; on December 27, 2017, Ikot Ekpene Prison was attacked and 

47 inmates escaped; then on July 4, 2022 Kuje prison Abuja was attacked and about 600 escaped. 

The Antithesis CalledNigerian Correctional Centres 

For a nation of over 200 million citizens, Nigeria boasts of 244 custodial centres nationwide. However, even though these centres only have capacity for 50,153 inmates, there are about 75,000 

inmates currently. Sadly, of this figure, over 50,000, which loosely translates to about 70 per cent, are awaiting trial (AWT) inmates. 

Heading the NCoS now is Comptroller-General Haliru Nababa, who was appointed on February 18, 2021 and 

Confirmed March 24, 2021.

What causes the incessant prison breaks in Nigeria one might ask? In most cases, 

it may be attributed to corruption, poor funding of the prison services, poor prison facilities, inadequate security features such as CCTV, motion sensors, high wall made up of barbed wire and sometimes electric fencing of the wall.

Given the abysmal congestion crisis in Nigeria’s prison system and the terrible state of its environment, the reason for sending convicts there is most times defeated. Even with the change in nomenclature from Nigerian Prison Service to NCoS, the underlying factor is yet to change- endemic corruption and zero maintenance structure.

Beside the degrading prison environment and overcrowding, many correctional centres do not have modern security equipment to forestall such breaches.

The officials are also known to smuggle in contrabands including generators and phones.

Way Forward

According to stakeholders and security analysts, including those at Nextier SPD, jailbreak has assumed a terrible dimension in Nigeria in 

recent years. 

it is quite unfortunate that despite the frequent cases of jailbreaks 

with an evident likelihood of official collusion, suspects are hardly prosecuted for gross inefficiency, criminal conspiracy or unprofessional misconduct.

Stressing the need for the NCoS to partner the International 

Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to track escapee prisoners, they opined that the Nigeria Immigration Service should beef up security at the nation’s borders in a bid to arrest the 


The also noted that there is need for target hardening across the 244 

correctional centres given that most of Nigeria’s prisons were built several decades ago and so have become weak 

because of lack of maintenance and neglect by successive administrations.

They posited that such facilities are in 

dire need of an upgrade in terms of better walls, perimeter fences, and solid gates.

Stressing that the living conditions of the inmates be updated, they also called for 

modern equipment in the correctional 

centres to aid security so that breaches could be easily detected and nipped in the bud. 

Harping on training for prison officials, the group also charged the NCoS to take serious the data capture of all inmates, adding that government should enrol all inmates into the National 

Identity Number system.

Also harping on inter-agency cooperation, they said it  is crucial to 

reducing and curbing the menace of prison breaks, especially in intelligence sharing and reinforcement, adding that it has become pertinent for quick prosecution of detained suspects 

across the country’s correctional facilities to mitigate the threats arising from incessant jailbreak.

Also, HURIWA charged the president to immediately set up a judicial panel of inquiry on prison attacks in the country and ensure that such assaults on the entire security apparatus of Nigeria do not recur.


We had enough men to protect this facility but unfortunately they couldn’t hold their position effectively for defence and that was the reason for the breach

Kuje is the most fortified in the country, if fortification for security is the determinant of whether it is medium or maximum. It is medium by size but maximum by the security being put there. It is very regrettable that this happened

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