By CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, Abuja
The federal government have revealed that no fewer than 1,993 inmates were freed from two correction centers in Edo State by some protesters under the guise of EndSARS protests.
The Ministry of Interior, in a statement signed by the director, press and public relations, Mohammed Manga, said other nefarious activities were also perpetrated by the attackers.
The statement reads thus: “Two Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Custodial Centres in Benin city and Oko in Edo State were attacked yesterday by protesters purportedly under the #ENDSARS aegis, freeing (at the last count) 1,993 inmates in legal custody and looting the centres, including the weapons in their armoury.”
The statement has the attackers who bore dangerous weapons attacked the officers on guard duty explained that they were unmistakable on their mission, which was to force the cells open, free the inmates and carry out other nefarious activities.
While explaining that the situation has been brought under control, the statement added that security in and around custodial centres nationwide has been beefed up, as they have also commenced investigation to determine the full impact of the attack.
The ministry which however acknowledged that peaceful protest is legitimate and guaranteed as a fundamental right of citizens operating as individuals and groups buttressed that attacking a custodial centre is a criminal act which detracts from the advertised objectives of the movement and capable of imputing impure motives to its drivers.
The statement reads in part: “It must be reiterated that custodial centres are high security zones. The primary duty of the institution is to keep custody of convicted criminals and awaiting trial suspects; this comes before their reformation. It is integral to the justice administration system.
“The integrity of the custodial centres is therefore fundamental to justice. Inmates of the centres are expected to pay their dues to society, undergo reformation and be reintegrated into society as changed-for-better persons. When this process is disrupted in any way, the integrity of justice and societal renewal is subverted, with dire and unimaginable consequences.
They lamented that most of the freed inmates who were held at the centres are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes. The statement decried that being let loose gravely imperils lives and property.
“It is an unacceptable and intolerable threat to national and communal security. Government’s primary duty is to protect lives and property and keep the people safe. We shall not be shirking in our responsibility and we shall not disappoint the people.
They urged the #ENDSARS protesters to remain peaceful, embrace dialogue, screen their rank and file and flush out those with criminal intents and, more importantly, steer clear of the custodial centres.
“This is to assure Nigerians, especially Edo State residents, that in conjunction with other security agencies, we have commenced the tracking and apprehension of all the escaped inmates before they do any harm. The statement added.
They appealed that anyone who notices any person or persons that might have escaped from the custodial centres should, as a patriotic duty, inform the nearest security agency.