Army wrote prison CG repeatedly before Kuje jailbreak – Major

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The Nigerian Army said, on Wednesday, that it repeatedly wrote to the Comptroller General of the Correctional Service warning of dangers before the July 5, 2022, jailbreak at the Kuje Custodian Centre in Abuja, where over 900 inmates escaped.

The army said the jailbreak could be linked to the lack of Close Circuit Television Cameras coupled with the low perimeter fence at the facility.

The Army made the assertion during the investigation instituted by the House of Representatives’ Joint Committees on Reformatory Institutions, Justice, Police Affairs, Interior, and Human Rights to ascertain the whereabouts of inmates who escaped from the Abuja Correctional Centre.

About 900 inmates escaped from the centre following an attack launched by men suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect.

Speaking at the event in Abuja, the Assistant Director, Commercial Law, Army Directorate of Legal Services, Maj. Peter Ogbuinya, said after the prison break, the army “observed that the place where Kuje prison is located is more of a built-up area.

“We observed issues of low fencing and a lack of CCTV cameras within the area, but these were unable to be put in place before the incident.”

Ogbuinya, who represented the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja,  added that the Nigerian Army was only playing a complementary role to the correctional centres by way of assistance.

According to him, the army is not the only security agency deployed to Kuje prison.

He said, “The day it took place, we had a rotation of troops, and it was that day the incident took place. I wouldn’t want to comment on the possibility of having an insider.

“Prior to that incident, the Nigerian Army wrote a series of letters to the Comptroller General of the Correctional Service concerning our observations and things that would enhance security.

“We are still working to know if there are any soldiers who failed to do what they were meant to do within the military hierarchy.”

The representative of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mrs Ayoola Daniel, said the ministry was in support of the committee to decongest the prison.

She said the correctional service had been removed from the Exclusive to the Concurrent List, adding that states were expected to take up the responsibility to decongest the prisons in their domains.

On his part, the Assistant Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Philip Ayuba, asked the committee to look into how lawyers who are in the National Youth Service Corps could be engaged in providing services for prisoners.

“We still have so many young men in prison; we are requesting that NYSC lawyers be sent to prison to look at some of the minor cases so that we can decongest the prison,” he said.

He emphasised the need for the adoption of alternative conflict resolution as a means of decongesting correctional centres.

“We also suggest that those who have stayed more than a year or two should be given amnesty. They need to give the inmates better training so that those who leave can find better things to do,” he added.

The Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Olumide Osoba, said, “We found ourselves in an embarrassing situation in July 2022,” adding that there has been a lot of improvement at the correctional centre since its oversight.

The Chairman of the Joint Committees, Chinedu Ogah, pledged the readiness of the parliament to do its part in decongesting correctional centres across the country.

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