•Governor Umahi declares State of Emergency, assures residents of security
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
There was pandemonium in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital as anti-riot squad of the Ebonyi state Police command foiled an attempted jailbreak when Abakaliki prison inmates staged a riot inside the prison.
However, no fewer than 15 inmates and two prison staff were allegedly killed during the riot which sources said started Wednesday night yesterday when inmates, protested against alleged inhuman treatment by the prison authority.
Police swiftly cordoned off all roads leading to the Abakaliki prisons which shares common boundary with the Police headquarters and the state government house, Abakaliki.
It was gathered that gunshots were fired intermittently as police tried to recover a firearm allegedly taken from one of the prison officers.
It was revealed that the inmates were protesting poor feeding.
Alhough, unconfirmed reports claimed that over 15 inmates lost their lives in the fracas. It was further gathered that two prison staff were also killed during the crisis before the intervention of soldiers from Nkwegu military cantonment and anti-riot police squad from the state police command.
It was disclosed that some of the inmates capitalised on the riot to stage a jailbreak and had already succeeded in creating an opening on the wall before anti-riot policemen arrived and overpowered them.
Already, the Commander of Military cantonment and the Commissioner of Police have taken over the operations to restore nomalcy.
Meanwhile, the state Comptroller of Prisons, Ebonyi state, Mrs Oputa Emilia confirmed the report and said three persons were injured in the crisis but denied knowledge of any death or snatching of gun from prison guard.
She admitted that the angry prisoners broke part of the fence but assured that the situation was being brought under control.
A top prison official told Daily Sun that prisoners were killed and their bodies were being secretly evacuated but insisted they were killed in self- defence.
It was also gathered that officers who took pictures of casualties were forced to delete them to avoid divulging it to the public while the bodies of the inmates were allegedly smuggled out and given secret burial.
However, Governor David Umahi declared a state of emergency in the prisons when he visited after the botched jailbreak. He described their living condition as anti-human and directed the state judiciary to fast track dispension of justice to awaiting trial inmates.
Governor Umahi who has just returned from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he attended the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), national convention declared that there would be no more movement of inmates in and out of the prison pending the resolution of the crisis.
“Early in the morning, I was told of attempted jailbreak by inmates of Abakaliki Prisons. The Commissioner of Police, Peace Ibekwe-Abdallah, reported the incident to me and did promise that they were re-inforcing. She told me she had contacted all the security chiefs in the state. They successfully prevented the inmates from escaping.
“Luckily, I am told that the prisoners are not complaining of any maltreatment and malnutrition. I was told that those who attempted the escape are those awaiting trial. I was told that there are so many of them awaiting trial. This is not good for us.”
Umahi directed the state Director of Prisons, Adaobi Oputa, to compile such cases and send to him to enable him liase with the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Aloy Nwankwo, to fast-track their trial.
He decried the level of infrastructure decay in the prisons, it was not good for the inmates. He Noted that the structures were built in the 1960s and promised to partner the prisons authorities to modernise the facility.
Meanwhile, the Police spokesman, George Okafor, said the command was still working hard to resolve the crisis.
He, however, refused to confirm if anybody is dead or not.
“There was an attempted jailbreak and the prisons called in the police. We cordoned off the area and restored normalcy to the area. We will brief you later on the issue once everything have been sorted out”.