Over 252 inmates were said to have escaped from the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Jos, the Plateau State capital, during an attack launched on the custodial facility by gunmen on Sunday evening.
The yet to be identified hoodlums had stormed the facility in large numbers with sophisticated weapons to free their targets said to be high profile criminals.
Sources at the custodial centre told LEADERSHIP that the attackers who stormed the facility shooting sporadically escaped with their members who are inmates.
Our correspondent learnt that most of those killed in the gun duel between the daredevil criminals are mostly fleeing inmates.
A controller at the Jos Custodial Center, Samuel Aguda, said the veracity of an earlier report that armed gunmen were trapped inside the facility could not be immediately confirmed by the controller-in-charge of the command.
A source revealed that one of the casualties during the shootout with the assailants was a one-star officer who hailed from Gindiri in Plateau state.
The authorities hinted that nine inmates and one squad personnel of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) were killed during jail break at the facility.
The public relations officer (PRO) of corrections, Francis Enobore, who confirmed the figure in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said another staff of the service was shot in the hand, while six inmates were also injured in the attack.
Enobore said while a total of 262 inmates escaped from the centre during the attack, 10 of the escapees have so far been recaptured, leaving 252 at large.
He noted that before the attack, the Jos Medium Security Custodial Centre had 1,060 inmates, comprising 560 pre-trial detainees and 500 convicts.
The controller-general of corrections, Haliru Nababa, condoled with the family and friends of the gallant officer who paid the ultimate price in the encounter, promising that the death would not be in vain as all the perpetrators would be hunted and made to face the full wrath of the law.
He thanked the officers and men of other security agencies for the assistance in bringing the situation under control, even as he assured members of the public that the safety of inmates, including their care and support, will continue to be a top priority in his administration.
The statement also called for collaboration from patriotic individuals to apprehend the fleeing inmates by volunteering credible intelligence that would nip such ugly incidents in the bud.
Similarly, Enobore said one of the gunmen trapped within the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Jos, after invading the facility had been identified as one of those killed in the gun duel.
The statement reads in part: “The attackers who stormed the Custodial Center at about 1720hrs on Sunday 28th November 2021 engaged the Nigerian Correctional Service(NCoS) armed squad personnel in a fierce gun battle before breaking into the yard.
“Sadly, one of the NCoS Armed Squad personnel paid the supreme price in the encounter while 9 inmates also lost their lives. Another staff member of the Service was shot in the hand and 6 inmates were also injured in the attack.
“He called for collaboration from patriotic individuals to apprehend the fleeing inmates as well as volunteering credible intelligence that could nip such ugly incidents in the bud.”
The police also confirmed that nine fleeing inmates from the Jos Correctional Centre have been arrested by the men of the force, this is even as one inmate who earlier left voluntarily surrendered himself.
This was made known to journalists by the command’s spokesman, ASP Gabriel Ubah.
Despite claims that some assailants were trapped, there has been no arrest recorded, as security agents say profiling of those in custody was ongoing.
As of the time of filing this report a crucial security meeting was by security top brass in the state at old Government House, Rayfield, Jos.
Meanwhile, the head of the Jos Correctional Centre, Samuel Aguda, has disclosed that suspected cattle rustlers from Barkin Ladi local government area of Plateau State have been identified to be among those who attacked the facility.
Speaking with journalists in Jos, he further added that one official, nine inmates were killed, six were fatally injured, 252 escaped and 12 were recaptured, while, 789 inmates were in custody.
“The attackers were suspected cattle rustlers from Barkin Ladi, some of the inmates took part in attacking us because they gave them rifles from our armory. 10 escapees were captured while two were brought back by their parents.
“We are hoping that with the combined efforts of security agencies, the escapees will be arrested. We have learned one or two lessons from this incident, we want to assure that this will not happen again,” he added.
The public relations officer of the Plateau State Police command, ASP Gabriel Agaba, in a statement, confirmed that following the attack on JCC the CP also directed immediate stop and search where seven escapees have been re-arrested by the police and are in Custody, while one of them voluntarily surrendered himself to the Police.
LEADERSHIP counted as many as six dead bodies but it was not clear whether the dead bodies are those of the gunmen who attacked the facility or inmates who attempted to escape.
As of the time of filing this report officials of the Jos Custodial Centre were still trying to ascertain the extent of damage to the facility, take head counts of the inmates and identify the bodies to be sure if or not the invaders are among the dead.
In his reaction to the incident, Governor Simon Lalong praised the gallantry of officers and men of the Jos Custodial Centre who rose to the occasion to thwart the plan of the criminals whose mission was to facilitate the escape of inmates and also destroy the facility, even as he condemned the attack.
According to a statement issued in Jos by his spokesman, Dr. Simon Makut Macham, Lalong commended the quick reaction of other security agencies, including the Police, Operation Safe Haven, DSS, NSCDC and Operation Rainbow who responded swiftly to the situation and took charge of the general area leading to entrapment of the assailants as well as arrest of fleeing inmates.
While describing the sad event as one too many in the nation’s correctional system, Lalong said it was high time a holistic approach is applied in bringing such attacks and jail breaks to an end in order to guarantee the safety of inmates, correctional officers, and the larger society from criminals who choose to attack the very essence of Nigeria’s legal system by disrupting law and order.
The governor also directed that immediate security measures be put in place around all Custodial facilities in the State, assuring that the state government will work with the federal government in every way possible to ensure that all correctional facilities in the state are protected from such attacks.
Similarly, the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (AP) Plateau State Chapter, Rufus Bature, commended security agencies in the state over their gallantry in handling the Sunday evening attack on the Jos Correctional Centre (JCC) by armed hoodlums.
The APC chairman, in a statement signed by the state publicity secretary of the APC, Sylvanus Namang,vand made available to journalists, noted that the quick response and collaboration between the security agencies was necessary at this period of security challenges bedevilling our state and country.