There is palpable fear among residents of Kogi State and its environs where over 240 inmates escaped from the Medium Security Custodial Centre (MSCC) in Kabba, following an attack by unknown gunmen.
Two soldiers and a police officer were killed when the hoodlums attacked Kabba Correctional Centre at about 11:03pm on Sunday night, shooting sporadically in the air and forcing their way into the prison.
According to official figures, the armed men released no fewer than 240 of the inmates who immediately took to their heels.
In a statement issued yesterday, spokesman of Nigeria’s correctional service, Francis Enobore, said, “The medium Security Custodial Centre in Kabba, Kogi State, has been attacked by yet to be identified gunmen and 240 inmates forcefully released”.
He added that aAt about 2245 GMT on Sunday, numerous attackers “engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle,” but the gunmen invaded the prison, which had 294 prisoners in custody at the time, including 224 pre-trial detainees.
Enobore further noted that the Comptroller–general, Haliru Nababa has ordered a recapture procedure to be activated immediately and detailed investigation carried out even as he leads a team to assess the situation.
He said the CG also appealed to the general public to furnish security operatives with useful intelligence that would assist in recapturing the escapees.
Nababa also advised residents of the state to report to the nearest security operations if they see any fleeing inmates from the Kabba correction centre.
Haliru made the call yesterday at the Kabba correctional centre while briefing journalists of the outcome of the jailbreak yesterday, in Kogi State.
Sources also told LEADERSHIP that the gunmen who came in seven Hilux vans with sophisticated weapons were on a mission to release some of the inmates from the correction centre.
LEADERSHIP checks at the scene showed that both at the military unit and correction service there were shattered glasses of the windows and broken ceilings, even as the iron door was forcefully opened with nothing to suggest that improvised explosive devices were used in the attack.
Eyewitnesses told journalists that the hoodlums arrived in the prison at about 11:03pm and left around 3am in the morning through the forced opening of the fence safeguarding the interior of the correction service.
A total of 294 inmates were said to be in various cells in the Kabba correctional centre following the ongoing repairs at Koto-Karfe correctional centre where the parameter fencing had collapsed for quite a while.
The development, it was gathered, overstretched the security at Kabba correction centre.
It was learnt that some of the fleeing inmates had been recaptured as of time of filing this report, while over 140 were still at large.
Sources added that some inmates voluntarily returned to the centre, while some went to the palace of the Obaro of Kabba, Oba Solomon Owoniyi, to surrender themselves after realising the implication of their action.
Confirming this, the royal father said three of the inmates went to his palace to report themselves.
Also, the Kogi State Vigilance Service said that its men arrested one of the inmates in bush.
The coordinator of the vigilante group, Isiaka Haruna, told journalists that their efforts had never been appreciated despite all hazards being encountered on duty for a sane society.
The Obaro of Kabba called on the federal and state governments as security agencies to beef up security around the country stressing that it was a big surprise to hear that the gunmen came at 11pm and left around 3.00am in the morning.
Acknowledging that the vigilante group was trying their best, he said their best may not have been enough in the face of sophisticated weapons brought by the suspected gunmen.
The commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, also confirmed the attack, saying investigation into the incident had commenced.
In a statement he issued yesterday, the commissioner said investigations were still on to ascertain the number of inmates that escaped from the centre.
He said, “We also lost two security operatives. That is the number we have at the moment. The state security adviser, Commander Jerry Omodara (rtd) is currently at the Centre with the Kogi State commissioner of police and the commander, Army Records, Lokoja.
“Security Agencies have zeroed in to ensure those who escaped are rearrested as well as trail the masterminds of the attack. We have confidence in our security agencies to unmask the masterminds responsible for the attack and get them apprehended.”
Fanwo added that the security network has led to the re-arrest of the majority of the inmates that escaped, as some have also come back to the centre on their own.
“Security agencies, traditional rulers and local hunters are working in synergy to ensure normalcy. We urge Kogi citizens and citizens of neighbouring states to provide volunteer information that will ensure the apprehension of the masterminds of the dastardly act,” he said.
Fanwo urged the people of the state to go about their normal businesses as security agencies are doing their best to ensure security of lives and property in the face of the unfortunate breach.