By OKOSUN DENNIS
THE recurring jail breaks, especially by those awaiting trials, have been described as a dangerous phenomenon considering that some of them were involved in heinous crimes before detention.
Describing the escape of prisoners as dangerous to the existence of people living in the communities where they sneak into, a security and safety analyst, Rotimi Aromolaran, flayed lack of government’s investment in prisons as possible reasons why there is regular escape.
Nigerians woke up to the alleged killing of 14 inmates and two prison wardens of the Abakaliki Prison in Ebonyi, who attempted a jailbreak following a chaotic situation. Unfortunately, the police was said to have arrived to foil the attempt.
This, incidentally, added up to series of jailbreaks being witnessed across the country, which has attracted punishment and sack of some prisons officers by the government in recent times.
Few weeks ago, another incident was recorded. Fifteen inmates of Nsukka prisons in Enugu state had scaled the fence and escaped from the facility, less than two months after two notorious inmates escaped from the Kuje prisons, Abuja.
However, the Comptroller of Prisons, Enugu state, Mr Amaliri Isaiah told National Daily at that even though they have re-arrested six of the inmates, mostly awaiting trials, a manhunt was on for other fleeing inmates. But he refused to say if there were insider collaborators that made it possible for the prisoners to escape.
In a chat with National Daily, Rotimi Aromolaran, frowned at the practise whereby it has become a recurrent issue that prisoners could go on escape bid without been deterred. He expressed sadness that despite avalanche of wardens in Nigerian prisons, there were still regular jailbreaks.
Aromolaran noted that such escapee become more dangerous to the society, as experience has shown in cases of rapists, armed robbers and other high profile crimes.
“They often turn back to terrorise the community harbouring them especially when such community had provided information that led to their arrest by security agencies that culminated to their arrest,” he enthused.
Aromolaran reiterated that in a civilised nation such person, even when released on formal discharge, is documented for the community to know his/her background.
“Such escapees when they come out would have gained some shared experience while in detention and would unleash it on society. Most cases, you have more violent armed robbery, raping, burglars who attack their victims at the slightest opportunity and in other high profile crimes.”
On the porosity of prisons, the America-trained analyst observed that it was most unfortunate that our prisons have become too porous for inmates to the extent that they easily scale the fence(s) without been detected until they are out of the facility.
He blamed lack of intelligence gathering within inmates; defective equipment or lack of it; shortage of manpower and over familiarisation between wardens and inmates who often link specific intelligence reports to the inmates as possible causes in addition to corruption.
For the former Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Barr Lawrence Alobi told National Daily that the implication of prisoners escaping into the society is very grave as most of them might avenge their arrest and detention, especially when information were given to the police by individuals or people in the community.
He explained that everybody is vulnerable including the security agents that carried out the arrest and prosecution, noting that for such detainee or criminal to be able to escape was an indication that the security in the prisons is not good enough.
In his words, “Jail break is an indication that the security within the prison is not guarantee and secure. For the society, we don’t have well organised reform system that would make them to have different perception about crime.
Adding his voice, another security expert who preferred to remain unnamed said the prisons are porous due to the poor conditions in those prisons and the over population of inmates that have grown above the capacity.
He observed that what fuels it most are overcrowded inmates and inadequate monitoring of prisoners in addition to wardens that have compromised their integrity.
The counter-terrorism expert further decried the condition of the wardens as “deplorable to the extent that it is the awaiting trials that try to alleviate the condition of the wardens by giving them money and other freebees.
“The awaiting-trial inmates have big guys who are rich and have money to throw around to get what they want. Surprisingly, some of the awaiting trials are not actually criminals. We must not criminalise them until they are convicted,” he said.
Reacting to whether poor feeding conditions exacerbate inmates’ escape, the Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Prisons Service, Abuja, DCP Francis Enobore, denied the claim saying that the feeding condition was good even though a lot can done to improve on it.
“That allegation is not true. We are gracious that the federal government has increased feeding allowance to inmates. Take time to go to prisons and see how healthy the inmates are. They are not looking like people that are not well fed,” he added.
Enobore expressed dismay over cases of escape experienced by the service since the beginning of the year. He pointed out that prisoners have become so bold to want to escape due to reasons known to them.
However, he said all over the world, there is the tendency for prisoners wanting to escape. Sometimes, there are human, logistics and infrastructural elements that might influence it.
“We would carry out thorough investigation to determine what actually led to it,” Enobore said.
Without reservation, he said every prison was well profiled and their biometrics taking before accepting them into the facility. This position was equally corroborated by CP Amaliri. “We have their biometrics and photographs,” he added.
While proffering solution on how to prison break in Nigeria, Barr Lawrence Alobi said government should secure our prisons with technologically advanced equipment while soliciting for an approach that preach moral transformation programme to them and building their character.
“The inmates should be made to understand that crime is sinful and not good for them as an individual and for their spiritual growth. They should also be given vocational training because while they are there, they see society as enemy,” Alobi reiterated.
However, some analysts are of the view that if the problem of escape from prison or jailbreak addressed, the prisons authorities must look at cases of “insider compromise that made it possible for them to act.
The Nigerian prisons service has in the last seven years had several jailbreak where over 2, 330 inmates have escaped. Investigation also indicated that such escapes occurred in over 15 different prisons while over 46 prison staff were killed while on active duty.
It would be recalled that 15 inmates, mostly awaiting trials, escaped from Nsukka prisons in Enugu state early this month.
Also, on the June 24, 2016, two inmates, Solomon Amodu and Maxwell Ajukwu (both standing trial for culpable homicide) had escaped from lawful custody in Kuje Prison. Although they were re-arrested, the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) suspended 14 officers and men for culpability.
Early in the year, the Koton/Karfe Minimum Security Prisons in Kogi state was broken leading up to the escape of 13 inmates after scaling the fence.
It was learnt that the Nigerian prison service recorded an estimated 451 prisoners escaping every year, the greatest number of escape in singular incident was in Maiduguri Prisons when Boko Haram insurgents stormed and freed 482 inmates and on the 29 October, 2014, another 366 inmates were set freed following the overrun of Mubi town in Adamawa state by the terrorist.
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