From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Following last Friday’s attack on the Medium Security Custodial Centre, of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Abolongo, Oyo town of Oyo State, Federal Government has said enough is enough on the consistent attacks on custodial facilities in different parts of Nigeria.
The government noted that there have been consistent attacks on the custodial facilities in Owerri in Imo State, Benin in Edo State, and Kabba in Kogi State, before the most recent attack in Oyo State, saying the attacks are not just some random happenings, but premeditated, planned and coordinated attacks, meant to make Nigeria unsafe and ridicule the government.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, made the disclosure when he paid an assessment visit to the attacked custodial centre at Abolongo, on Sunday.
An external attack was launched against the facility by gunmen around 10p.m., on Friday October 22, 2021. A total of 837 out of 907 inmates, held in the facility were freed by the gunmen. One soldier, one Amotekun operative and one inmate list their lives during the gun duel, while many also sustained varying degrees of injury.
“We are going after every single inmate that escaped from custody. We shall hunt them to the ends of the earth. All the security agencies in the country are on their trail. We shall not rest or tire until we bring the last one in, dead or alive.
“Let me assure Nigerians of their safety of lives and property. Our custodial facilities are safe and we are putting extra safety measures in place, in light of the observed pattern of the external attacks we have seen, to prevent any such occurrence in the future.
“I’m assuring Nigerians that the Federal Government will pursue not just those who attacked our facility, but those who have escaped lawful custody. The attack was unconscionable. I commend officers of the Nigeria Correctional Service and other members of sister security agencies, who provided perimeter security for our facility for fighting gallantly and holding the fort before the attackers were able to gain access to the awaiting trial section of the facility. However, those who escaped are already being pursued. Some have been rearrested, many more will still be captured,” the Minister stated.
The visit of Aregbesola was preceded by separate visits to the facility by the Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; and 5the state Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko.
According to Makinde, the attack was shocking, saying: “Investigation is still ongoing. We cannot say precisely whether this is an isolated event, or this is the beginning of a wider issue that we have to deal with. But whatever the case is, we have made an assessment of here, we have taken some immediate decisions. We have asked that the road from the main road to this place be graded immediately. We are going to position cameras here and we will link them to our security situation room, not ust here, but all other correctional facilities in the state.
“We are also making a list of critical state assets that we need to monitor. I have also asked that the entrance and exit points to the state be monitored.”
Responding to question on high profile inmates in the facility: Makinde said: “People are very quick to start talking about conspiracy theory. Investigation is still on. Yes, there are high profile inmates that are held in this facility. But they are not the people that they are carrying their rumour. So, I will appeal again that we should be calm. We have challenges around the country. We have insurgency. We have banditry. But we can only deal with those issues when we have the people in alignment to what the leadership is doing. We should believe that their leadership would tell them the exact situation of things at the appropriate time.”
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi, also remarked: “What happened is so shocking to us. May God end such. This place is for those who are doing and acting against the law and all what the government is doing to make things good, so that they can be kept away and reform them before coming back into the society as better people.
“But, the situation that they had to bring guns and explosives here to destroy the place is so shocking to us and painful. All those who died and injured, may God forgive them their sins and heal those in the hospital.
“The people of the town should be calm and wait for what the government will do. I am sure that the government will react positively and this incident will be a thing of the past. By the grace of God, we will never witness this type of devastation again in this town.”
Meanwhile, as at Saturday afternoon, a total of 262, inmates had been recaptured, while 575 were still at large. But the number of inmates that have been recaptured has risen to 378, while 460 are still at large, according to Adams Ongaji, the officer in charge of the custodial centre. It was observed that repairs of damaged items at the centre have begun on Sunday.
Inside sources within the custodial centre, however, said only two soldiers and three armed guards were on grounds when the gunmen arrived at the facility with sophisticated weapons. They stated that the gunmen did not only overpower the five security personnel, they successfully took away three inmates that were remanded at the centre in connection with bank robbery. They added that the external attack of the facility occurred about a week after the three bank armed robbery suspects were remanded in the facility.
The Deputy Controller-General, Operations, of NCS, Abuja, Mohammed Tukur, also cleared the air on the speculations that the gunmen came to rescue th alleged territorial warlord and kidnapping kingpin on Ibarapa axis of the state, Iskilu Wakili, saying Wakili was not being held at the centre. He said the suspected serial killer that terrorised many communities in Akinyele Local Government Area of the state between May and August, 2020, Sunday Sodipe, was not also at the facility.
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