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Security operatives launch manhunt for 109 escapees as rainstorm destroys Suleja Custodial Centre

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.10 inmates rearrested –NCoS

.As Minister seeks prison reforms

 

From Cyril Mbah Abuja.

Security has been beefed up by heavily armed personnel from different services around the hilly town of Suleja near Abuja leading to the arrest of ten prison inmates who escaped on Wednesday night after heavy storm which caused the collapse of prison walls and made the correctional centre vulnerable.

 

Reinforcements of Police, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and the military were deployed to the town on Thursday soon after the Wednesday prison break and are combing the hills and forest areas for the fleeing prisoners.

Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, visited the area and conducted on-site inspection of the Suleja Medium Security Custodial Center to determine the extent of damage caused by Wednesday night intense rain.

The Minister was visibly saddened that about 118 inmates used the opportunity of the collapsed walls to escape while it was still raining.

 

The Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) said earlier that it has recaptured 10 fleeing inmates, and are in hot chase for the remaining ones in collaboration with sister security agencies.

 

.As Minister seeks prison reforms

 

Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has called  for reforms in over 240 custodial centres nationwide.

Speaking to journalists after assessing the damage caused by a severe downpour at the Suleja Medium Security Custodial Centre in Niger State, Tunji-Ojo attributed the recent breach to a natural disaster.

A downpour on Wednesday night wreaked havoc on the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Suleja, Niger State, resulting in extensive damage to the facility and facilitating the escape of 119 inmates.

The downpour caused severe damage to the custodial centre’s infrastructure, including a breach in the perimeter fence, allowing inmates to flee.

 

But,10 fleeing inmates had been recaptured.

Meanwhile, the minister has assured swift action, emphasising the ongoing hunt for the escapees.

He pledged the Federal Government’s dedication to bringing the remaining 109 fleeing inmates back into custody.

The minister said, “Because of the force majeure, the storm that happened, there was a breach of the outer wall of this facility, and some of the inmates escaped. And of course, we have been able to recapture 10 back out of the 119. So, we have 109 at large.

“And the manhunt is presently ongoing. We will do everything humanly possible to make sure everyone is brought back.

“We have also looked at the cause of the matter because we must make sure that this does not happen again.

“We can see that the walls are old, and unfortunately, there are certain responsibilities that we must take.

“But the most important thing is that we will do everything possible to restore sanity, to ensure that this does not happen in any other facility.”

He acknowledged the role of ageing infrastructure in the incident and vowed to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

 

“Obviously, we can see that the walls are old, and unfortunately, there are certain responsibilities that we must take. But the most important thing is that we will do everything possible to restore sanity, to ensure that this does not happen in any other facility ” he added.

On overcrowding problem, he said that the centre, designed for 250 inmates, housed 499 before the breach and stressed the urgent need for reforms.

 

He assured ongoing collaboration with relevant agencies to ensure a coordinated response for the prompt return of escapees.

 

“The president has always been talking about urbanisation in our correctional centres.

 

“You can look at the environment; it shows that we need to relocate a lot of our correctional centres and we need to relocate them away from city centres to create better peace, security, and infrastructure. But as we have said, we are not here to make excuses. We are here to take responsibility.

 

“I want to assure you that we are talking to our sister agencies to make sure that we can synergize, collaborate, and ensure that there is a timely return of these escapees.

 

“This was a facility that was built to house 250 inmates. Before the incident, we had 499 inmates, which leads us to what we have been talking about – overcrowding in our correctional centres,” Tunji-Ojo explained.

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