Following the escape of five notorious armed robbery suspects from a Magistrates court in Minna, Niger state last week, the officer in charge of the old Minna prison, a deputy comptroller of prisons (DCP) and nine other top officers of the prison have been detained and are undergoing interrogations by the Nigeria Prisons authorities.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the arrest of the officers came on the heels of the decision of the authorities of the Nigeria prisons service to institute a high-powered investigative panel to unravel the circumstances surrounding the escape of the suspected criminals and the involvement of the arrested prison officers in the incident.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY sources said the investigative team was set up by the deputy comptroller general of prisons, who also ordered the detention of the officers involved in the incident as the higher authorities of the service viewed the development as an embarrassment.
The step taken by the higher authorities of the service no doubt, had over taken the earlier move by the Niger state comptroller of prisons, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Ashafa who had constituted a local panel to investigate the escape of the suspects.
The Niger state controller of prisons who refused to divulge the identity of his men who were involved in the saga confirmed that no fewer than 10 officers of the old Minna prison who were involved in the incident have been arrested.
He said that they were being quizzed to ascertain their level of involvement and whether it was their negligence that resulted in the escape of the suspects.
According to Ashafa, search parties have been sent to all nook and crannies of the state to apprehend the fleeing robbery suspects, and assured that they would soon be re-arrested.
“The incident is unfortunate and embarrassing to us (prison authorities), and any officer indicted at the end of the investigation would be dealt with accordingly”, Ashafa said.
It was a drama like scenario last week at a Minna Magistrates court as five suspected notorious armed robbers escaped from the court when they were being arraigned for armed robbery charges.
They took court officials and the prosecutor, Inspector Tenimu Bako by surprise as they attacked the police prosecutor and other security agents attached to the court. The suspects also beat Tenimu Bako to a state of coma.
The drama started when the suspects whispered something to one another before arming themselves with the exhibits deposited in the court room and used them to scare the judicial staff before pouncing on the prosecutor who tried to lock the door to the court room.
The suspects, it was gathered, were earlier brought to court in the morning by prison officers who left them without the usual security they were supposed to be provide with. This lapse on the part of the prison officers was said to have paved the way for the escape of the armed robbery suspects.
The suspects mainly targeted the prosecutor, and inflicted serious injuries on him, and abandoned him for dead before getting away in his car.
The police prosecutor was rushed to the general hospital in Minna by some of the court officials who could only come to his rescue after the robbery suspects had left the court premises in a commando-style through the popular IBB road, Minna.
As the attack was going on ,many people including litigants went into hiding with the fear that the charging suspects might be members of the dreaded Boko Haram.
A passerby, Hakeem told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY: “We thought it was members of Boko haram attacking the court. It was so quick and deadly”.
The Niger state police command Public Relation Officer, ASP Richard Adamu Oguche blamed the incident on the prison warders negligence.
He said: “We have the report that about five robbery suspects attacked our prosecutor and escaped while they were in court. After beating the prosecutor to a coma, they removed his car key and drove away the car to escape”.
Oguche assured that the command would intensify search to re-arrest the escaping robbery suspects, as all officers and men of the command have been put on red alert to track down the escaping suspects.
Reacting to the incident in her court, the presiding Magistrate, had said, “thank God that I have not arrived only God knows what they would have done to me”.
She disclosed that the suspects were actually seven but that two of them did not participate in the escape struggle, adding that the two suspects are now in police custody.