(By Romanus Ugwu – ABUJA)
The Controller-General of Prisons, Ja’afaru Ahmed, has dismissed speculations that inmates escaped from the Abakaliki prison during the attempted jailbreak last week, lamenting that while six inmates were killed, 10 were severely wounded.
In a release signed by the Prison Public Relations Officer (PPRO) DCP O Francis Enobore, the CG explained that what started as a minor incidence of certain inmates resisting prison officials from carrying out routine cell-search degenerated to opening fire on them, resulting in the high casualty figures.
“Trouble started when prison officials were about to carry out routine cell-search in the morning but the inmates in a particular cell resisted the exercise. They suddenly became riotous, broke other cells and released the inmates.
“They eventually broke into the workshop to arm themselves with dangerous weapons and severely attacked some staff trapped in the yard while others made for the main gate and pulled it down.
“Interestingly, the prisons Armed Squad and men from other security agencies on guard outside the perimeter fence fired warning shots to deter the rampaging inmates, but a number of them rushed out to escape.
“The bold attempt was resisted by the combined team of armed personnel who presented what would have turned into a catastrophic security situation had the inmates succeeded in escaping.
“Regrettably, at the end of the fracas, six prisoners died and 10 others were injured. Six prison officers were severely injured. However, both staff and inmates are responding to treatment with some already discharged from the hospital,” the prison disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Controller General has set up a 3-man panel to carry out a detailed investigation into the incident in order to establish both the immediate and remote causes of the riot.
While commending the officers and men of Abakaliki Prisons for successfully foiling the attempted jailbreak and officers of other security agencies that promptly responded in resisting the jailbreak, he noted that such synergy was essential in maintaining peace and good order in the society.
The CGP promised to continue to support field officers in the onerous task of securing prisoners in safe and humane. He also assures that reformation and rehabilitation of inmates will be pursued with the required vigour in order to stem the vicious circle of repeat offenses among ex-convicts.
Abakaliki prison was built in 1946 with an installed capacity of 387 inmates, but as of last week the prison had a population of 920 prisoners – of which 811 are awaiting trial inmates, leaving just 109 as convicted inmates with the ring leader spending about nine years awaiting trial.