Tony Osauzo, Benin
Twenty-five of the 1,900 inmates who escaped from the Oko and Sapele Road Correctional Centres in Benin City have voluntarily surrendered to correctional authorities.
The inmates had escaped last Monday when hoodlums riding the wave of the nationwide #EndSARS protests stormed the two prisons and set the inmates, among them 120 condemned persons, free.
Among the returnee inmates is 40-year old Alex Ose, a taxi driver who has been awaiting trial since 2014 when he was arrested for armed robbery in Benin.
The father of four from Esan said he decided to comply with State Governor Godwin Obaseki’s directive and surrender himself because he is innocent of the charges against him and was sure that he will be set free by the court.
Alex said that the escape had provided him an opportunity to be home with his wife and children, disclosing that he escaped when protesters broke the two jails open and ordered them out.
‘I am innocent of the allegations against me. I was framed up. I am appealing to Governor Obaseki to look into my case. I have every opportunity to run but chose to surrender myself because I am not guilty. The Governor should please look seriously into my case. I am innocent,’ Ose pleaded.
It was learnt that one of the escaped prisoners was shot in the leg and caught on Wednesday when he was sighted near the Correctional Centre along Sapele Road. He was said to have taken to his heels when he was ordered to surrender himself to the authorities.
Two of the 25 inmates who returned were said to be from Oko Medium Correction Centre along Airport Road, Benin, and would be returned to the prison when the situation normalises.
Menwhile, there are indications that operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS), the police and officials of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) will soon commence a massive manhunt for the remaining escaped inmates at the expiration of Governor Obaseki’s one week grace for the prisoners to return.
According to a source, those who escaped from lawful prison custody risked being sentenced for an extra seven years if caught, while those who willingly surrendered themselves will be shown mercy as promised by Governor Obaseki.
‘We have a way of arresting runway prisoners. We will swing into action once the protest calms down. The earlier they return on their own, the better for them. Those who are re-arrested will be retried and sentenced to extra seven years if convicted. So, it is in their own interest to return as the Governor has given them an extra one week of grace to return,’ the source said.