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Prison Break: Tracking 18 incidents of jailbreaks under President Buhari

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JAILBREAKS  in Nigeria have become rife in recent years, posing an insecurity challenge in the country.

The jailbreak at the Kuje medium-security prison claimed by the Islamic State group (IS), a terror group aligned with Boko Haram, led to the escape of over 600 inmates.

This includes 64 escapees affiliated with terrorist groups.


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The terror group had attacked the Kuje medium-security prison with guns and high-grade explosives.

Over 1,000 inmates were in the facility when the attack occurred, officials at the prison said.

A number of high-profile detainees, including former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye, and former Taraba Governor Jolly Nyame, amongst others, were in the facility at the time of the attack.

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One security officer was killed during the attack, and three others were injured.

The Kuje prison jailbreak is the first successful large-scale prison break in Abuja, the nation’s capital. The prison break is part of a pattern of attacks on security forces.

However, several terror groups have conducted similar styled-jailbreaks across the country.

According to security analysts, most of Nigeria’s recent jailbreaks seem unconnected, although the attacks are carried out similarly using explosives.

President Muhammadu Buhari visited the prison for a few minutes, where senior officials showed him around the facility before leaving for Senegal.

In a tweet, Buhari said he was “saddened” by the attack and “disappointed” with Nigeria’s intelligence system.

Since 2015, there have been at least 18 prison breaks in Nigeria, with nearly 9,000 inmates released and nearly half of them still on the run, according to The Africa Report.

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Data from the Nigeria Correctional Services, NCoS reveals that 74,675 inmates were in its custody as of July 4.

A report revealed that 1,226 escapees were recaptured out of a total of 6,620 inmates that escaped in 14 jailbreak incidents and attacks between 2016 and 2022.

The ICIR tracked high-profile, successful jailbreaks conducted by different terror groups to release their members across the country under President Buhari’s watch since 2015.

2016

30 inmates broke free in 2016 from

On August 9, 2016 Nsukka Correctional Centre in Enugu State

On August 9, 2016, at least 15 inmates at the Nsukka Correctional Centre in Enugu State broke out of their cells and escaped.

July 29, 2016 – Koton/Karfe Correctional Centre in Kogi State

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About a month earlier, on July 29, 2016, 13 inmates escaped during a jailbreak at the Koton/Karfe Correctional Centre in Kogi State.

June 24, 2016, Kuje Medium Correctional Centre

Similarly, on June 24, 2016, two inmates awaiting trial escaped at the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The inmates standing murder trial, Maxwell Ajukwu and Solomon Amodu, escaped from the facility by scaling the fence.

The Controller-General of Prisons, Ahmed Jafa’aru, has ordered the removal and redeployment of the then officer-in-charge of Kuje Medium Prisons, Musa Tanko, over the escape of two inmates.

2017

October 7, 2017 – Enugu Maximum prison

On October 7, 2017, two inmates, Lucky Sama and Balogun Idiom Joseph, escaped the Enugu maximum security prison through the ceiling of a catholic church in the centre.

In the report, the Enugu police spokesperson, Emeka Monday, said the two inmates were convicted for two calendar years for stealing.

December 27, 2017 – Ikot Ekpene Prison in Akwa Ibom state.

Thirty-six prisoners escaped from the facility in a well-coordinated operation by the inmates.

The inmates attacked the kitchen staff that were on duty and broke loose. The incident led to the death of four other inmates.

2018

June 3, 2018 – Minna medium-security prison, Niger state

Gunmen attacked Minna medium-security prison, Niger state, killing an official and a commercial motorcyclist.

The attack resulted in the escape of 210 inmates from the facility.

2019

October 28, 2019 – Koton Karfe correctional centre, Kogi state

About 122 inmates fled the Koton Karfe correctional centre after a section of the facility was overrun by flood following a downpour in the town.

However, the service said 25 of the fleeing inmates were recaptured.

2020

October 19, 2020 — Benin, Edo State and Oko, Enugu State, prisons

About 1,993 inmates escaped from custody in the jailbreaks that happened in Benin and Oko, Edo state.

The Nigerian Correctional Service said the inmates were convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences and awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes.

This jailbreak occurred shortly after hoodlums attacked the prisons during the #EndSARS protest in the state.

October 22, 2020 – Okitipupa correctional centre, Ondo state

The train of violent attacks during the #EndSARS protests touched down in Okitipupa, Ondo state, as hoodlums broke into the NCoS facility in the town.

The hoodlums were said to have pulled down the facility’s fence and set prisoners free.

Fifty-eight inmates were released during the attack.

2021

April 5, 2021 — Owerri correctional centre, Imo state

The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) said 1,844 inmates escaped after gunmen ambushed its facility in Owerri, Imo state.

The correctional centre and the police command headquarters in Owerri were also attacked.

The police had alleged that the invasion was carried out by the Eastern Security Network, an outfit of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

July 8, 2021 –  Jos Custodial Centre, Plateau state

On July 8, four suspects awaiting trial over the kidnapping and armed robbery escaped the Jos Correctional centre.

Samuel Aguda, the controller-in-charge of the command, blamed the incident on the negligence of the personnel on duty.

September 13, 2021 – Kabba Correctional Centre, Kogi state

Two security operatives were killed in an attack by unidentified gunmen on Kabba Correctional Centre in Kogi state.

They also attacked a military checkpoint a few metres away from the centre before freeing 240 inmates from the facility.

However, Sesan Nihi, Kogi correctional service spokesman, said 114 of the escaped inmates were re-arrested.

October 22, 2021 — Abolongo medium-security custodial centre, Oyo state

According to Olarenwaju Anjorin, the spokesperson of the NCS, gunmen with sophisticated weapons attacked the Abolongo custodial centre in the state.

The attackers reportedly caught the warders unawares and used hand grenades to access the prison.

The attack resulted in the escape of 837 inmates. A few days after the incident, Anjorin said 262 inmates were recaptured, while 575 were at large.

November 28, 2021 – Jos correctional centre, Plateau state

About 262 inmates escaped the correctional centre after gunmen invaded the facility.

The NCoS said ten were captured, nine killed, while 252 inmates were at large.

2022

January 2, 2022 — Mandala Custodial Centre, Ilorin, Kwara state

Three inmates escaped from the custodial centre.

May 13, 2022 — Agbor prison, Delta state

After a heavy downpour on May 13 which resulted in the fall of the northern perimeter wall of the prison, three inmates took to their heels and escaped the prison.

Following the incident, correctional guards, army and police officials were deployed to bring back the inmates.

July 2022 – Kuje Prison Attack, FCT

The jailbreak in the Kuje area of Abuja led to the escape of 879 inmates, including 64 terrorists affiliated with IS who claimed responsibility for the attack.

The terror group attacked the Kuje medium-security prison with guns and high-grade explosives.

One security officer was killed during the raid, and three others were injured.

While the Kuje prison raid by the terrorists was the first in Abuja, they have conducted several similar jailbreaks in northeastern Nigeria.

Author profile

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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