Nigeria: 61,000 Boko Haram Suspects Detained in Northeast Nigeria – Official

Over 60 Boko Haram members are among the hundreds of inmates who escaped from the Kuje prison and are still at large.

About 61,000 persons suspected to be members of Boko Haram and other criminal gangs are being held in Nigerian prisons in the North-eastern part of the country, an official has said.

Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola said this Tuesday when he paid a visit to the Kirikiri Maximum and Medium Security Custodial Centres in Kirikiri, Lagos, according to his spokesperson, Sola Fasure.

The Boko Haram insurgency across Nigeria has caused over 100,000 deaths and led to the displacement of millions of people, according to official figures.

Mr Aregbesola’s remarks came barely one week after the Kuje Custodial Center, Abuja, was attacked by suspected members of Boko Haram. Over 60 Boko Haram members are among the hundreds of inmates who escaped from the Kuje prison and are still at large.

“Today, a core of the criminal elements and insurgents across the country are on a path to defeat, they have been heavily degraded. Over 61,000 of them are in our custody in the North-East,” Mr Aregbesola said.

He said Nigeria is on the path to totally defeating Boko Haram and other criminals across the country.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how various prisons were attacked between 2020 and 2021, leading to the escape of over 5,000 inmates.

Last Tuesday, Kuje Custodial Center was attacked by suspected members of Boko Haram. Over 800 inmates escaped from the prison with about half of them still at large and others recaptured.

Mr Aregbesola, President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Ahmad Lawan condemned the security situation in the prison during their separate visits.

A breakaway faction of Boko Haram, ISWAP, has claimed responsibility for the attack and shared a video of the attack.

Mr Aregbesola had earlier lamented the Kuje prison attack, saying the facility was Nigeria’s most fortified prison.

During his visit on Tuesday, Mr Aregbesola called on officers of the Nigerian security forces and paramilitary agencies in the country to remain vigilant to defeat criminals terrorising the country.”We must acknowledge our servicemen and security agencies, who have sacrificed a lot to make this possible. We must equally charge them to remain eternally vigilant and continuously evolve strategies. And to define these strategies, we have to make decisions based not on fear, but on hard-earned wisdom,” he said.

“I have also informed our officers and men here that they must fight to defend our institutions, territory and constitution. It also applies to all others wherever they are posted in Nigeria. The ragtag groups of opportunists must not be allowed to attack our institutions and get away. They must not live to tell the story,” Mr Aregbesola said.

He urged the management of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) to improve its efforts on intelligence gathering and acting on information garnered. He said that is the panacea to solving the problem of incessant attacks on custodial centres.

Blame on EndSARS

Mr Aregbesola said the recurring incidents of external attacks on prisons began during the EndSARS protest in 2020.

PREMIUM TIMES reported the EndSARS protest during which young Nigerians across the country demanded police reform and the abolition of the notorious police team, SARS.

Some criminals took advantage of the protests to attack prisons in different parts of the country including Edo and Oyo.”So far, no jailbreak by inmates has been successful, we have successfully quelled all of them. What we have reoccurring since the #EndSars protests of October 2020, have been a mass of people attacking our facilities from outside and setting the inmates free,” Mr Aregbesola said.

“However, I have now directed the Controller General of the NCoS to double his efforts on intelligence gathering to fortify and prevent breaches to the Custodial Centres beyond the use of arms and force.”

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