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FG Yet To Publish Details Of Suleja Prison Escapees, 48hrs Later After Escape

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FG To Remove Outdated 1963 Fire Service Act, Says Interior Minister

The Federal Government is yet to publish the identities of about 69 inmates of the Suleja Custodial Centre who escaped on Wednesday night when heavy rains brought down the fence of the facility.

No fewer than 119 inmates of the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Suleja, Niger state, have escaped, following hours of heavy downpour which destroyed parts of the facility on Wednesday night.

Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo who visited the facility said there was need to remove it from the urban centre.

According to him, the centre which was built to accommodate 250 inmates, had 499 before the incident.

He said; “Obviously, it was a force majeure. There was a storm and there was a breach of the outer wall of this facility and some of the inmates escaped. Of course, we have been able to retrieve about 10 out of the 119. So we have 109 at large and the manhunt is presently ongoing. We will do everything possible to make sure that everyone is brought back”.

The Service later said it would publish the identities of the escapees.

However, speaking on a breakfast television show on Friday monitored in Abuja, Founder, Foundation for Investigative Journalism FIJ, Fisayo Soyombo wondered why it was taking so long to publish the identities of those who escaped.

He said; “What we have in Nigeria are prison facilities rather than correctional centres. They are just ‘Correctional’ in name and not in practice. If there is a downpour and the wall collapses, ideally, it is not enough to make prisoners escape because if you have been to a typical Nigerian prison, you have security officials lining the circumference of the prison at every point in time such that even if someone leaves the gates of the prisons open, an inmate will think twice before attempting to escape. After all, you have at least five different security agencies with guns circling the prison.

“So it is strange to me that because there was a downpour, hundreds of inmates thought they could escape without losing dear lives and they did. Typically, it’s hard to have a jailbreak without insider collusion. I have been there before. It is not just about the opportunity to escape, it is the fear, the understanding that you could get shot. But again, it is Nigeria and virtually nothing is impossible.

“I read somewhere that an unnamed prison official said the wall that collapsed was built with inferior facilities. The sands, blocks etc and the attention of management was drawn to that, which brings attention to the wider rot in the country – that people get paid for projects, they use substandard products and they get away with it. It shows a deeper rot that we cannot trust the people who execute projects in this country.

“For me, it is personally concerning that inmates found a broken wall and thought they could escape. If gates are opened, inmates should be worried. Why has it taken 48 hours for the government to publish the details of the inmates? Do they suddenly have to go and look for the names? Do they suddenly have to go and look for the pictures? I know that when you get into a typical Nigerian prison, you get documented twice. You undergo the manual documentation where you sit down and someone takes a picture and they print. And also, you undergo online documentation where your details are digitally captured. But I know as well that if you know the ‘right’ people in a typical Nigerian prison, your records can get erased.

I am not saying this as hearsay. It is something that I personally discovered. I don’t know if that has happened but I am just wondering why have inmates escaped and then 48 hours after, the government has not released their names and pictures. Ideally, these things are in their records already. It is not as if they have to go and start looking for them”, he stated.

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