Nigeria: 6 Months After Jos Jail Break, Over 200 Prisoners Still At Large

It’s been six months since a daring jail break occurred at the Jos Correctional Centre which set free 252 inmates, leaving in its trail four dead persons and a badly bruised image of security agencies in Plateau State, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

The Jos Correctional Centre is a maximum custodial centre located at the heart of Jos city and thought to be fortified because its strong and high intimidating walls are also surrounded by the State Police command, the state Department of Security Services (DSS), the Jos Area Command, the Police A Division and police barracks. These structures of security that could have deterred any criminal and bestowed confidence at the prison as a highly fortified custodial centre had shattered at the face of danger that resulted in over 200 inmates that should have been behind bars now roaming freely across Nigeria.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the Jos Correctional Centre, with a capacity to accommodate 1,159 inmates was said to have housed not more than 1,000 inmates at the time of the attack. It was gathered that those who carried the November 28, 2021 attack had arrived the prisons around 5pm in disguise. They were said to have accessed the prison through the main entrance in the guise of people who were there to preach to inmates.

Sources from the prison explained that among the 252 inmates that escaped were those on death row, those awaiting trial and those waiting to meet up bail conditions. The sources said there were also those held on more serious crimes such as kidnapping, gun running and murder. The knowledge of the last group among the escapees had jolted residents of Plateau State, with many being on alert despite assurances by security agencies that residents should remain calm as they were trailing the escaped inmates.

However, Hassan Mahmud, a resident of Jos North Local Government Area said there were possibilities that some of the escaped prisoners had fled the state. He said the first 48 hours after the jailbreak was key and security agents should have gone all out to ensure that the inmates were re-arrested and incarcerated.

“It’s now about six months since the incident and we may never, ever be able to get some of the inmates and that spells danger because some of them may commit crimes in other places. You also have to look at the fact that these criminals have escaped justice and that may be the end of it,” he said.

Our correspondent however gathered that six months after the jail break, only 35 of the 252 runaway inmates have been re-arrested with at least 217 still unaccounted for. The spokesperson of the correctional centre, Geoffrey Longdiem, said efforts are ongoing to re-arrest the remaining escaped inmates. A probe by Daily Trust to ascertain the post-attack activities by the security agencies was denied as Longdiem insisted that the matter was still under investigation and the details shall be made public after the investigations.

However, a senior officer at the centre who pleaded anonymity dismissed insinuations that the prison may have been overcrowded to warrant a prison break. He said the Jos correctional centre has a capacity to accommodate 1,159 inmates and there was never a time this facility was overcrowded. “We hardly have more than 1,000 at any point in time,” he said, adding that there are altogether seven correctional centres in Plateau State located at Pankshin, Langtang, Wase, Shendam, Lakushi (Shendam) and those of Lamingo and Jos city.

Another custodian official who pleaded anonymity informed Daily Trust that there haven’t been any additional security measures taken to fortify the facility, six months after the jail break. “Originally, the facility is fully fortified, the prison walls are fully manned, the main entrance gate is manned by the armed squad of the agency. In fact, the facility is not lacking in security, and that was why the attackers came disguised, because they knew there was no way they could have attacked the facility by force. They disguised themselves and that made the armed guards relax,” he said. He however said the prison authority and security agents were now more cautious in screening visitors at the facility.

While observing additional constructions at the facility, our correspondent noted that there are ongoing renovations at the office complex which housed the office of the Comptroller General and officials and men of the agency. Also, under renovation after the attack is the official quarters of the Comptroller General and a few senior officers. The fence around the office complex had also been renovated with the height of the fence increased and fortified with the top woven round with barbwires.

However, the fortification of the section of the custodian centre which houses the prisoners is yet to witness any physical upgrade. There has been no change in the features of the facility since the attack though Daily Trust correspondent was not allowed inside. The signs of bullet holes that documented the tragic event of the jail break is still visible for any visitor to see.

Speaking on the jail break, the Director Civil Liberty Organization (CLO) Mr Steve Aluko, said the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, owes Nigerians an explanation on the jail break in Jos. “It has been six months since that attack and no information is coming from his ministry. The minister needs to tell Nigerians why the jail break was successful and how over 200 inmates escaped.”

He said Nigerians needed to know the whereabout of over 200 inmates who may pose danger to society and why they are yet to be arrested. “Government needs to speak out because Nigerians are suspicious that those criminals may be recruited by desperate politicians as the campaign for 2023 elections thickens. The bulk stops at the table of the minister, and his silence is giving the impression that he wants to sweep the issue under the carpet. Doing so will further compound the security challenges of the country,” he said.

Also speaking, Barrister Nankin Bagudu of the League for Human Rights (LFHR) said that the case of the jail break remain unresolved till now is shameful and irresponsible on the side of the federal government and relevant authorities. “In a serious country, heads must roll over that jail break but in Nigeria, anything goes,” he said.

“I think Nigeria should rise up and demand the resignation of the Minister of Interior for that negligence and inaction. The minister should be held responsible for the rise in crime across the country if he fails to recover the over 200 fleeing inmates of Jos prison.”


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