August 16, 2022
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What we are doing to end jailbreaks in Nigeria – Minister – Premium Times

  • December 5, 2021
  • 6 min read
What we are doing to end jailbreaks in Nigeria – Minister – Premium Times

The Minister of Interior of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, on Friday in Abuja said anyone or group who, henceforth, tries to break out prisoners from any correctional centre in the country, is on a suicide mission.
Mr Aregbesola, who spoke through an aide at an event organised by the British Nigeria Law Forum (BNLF), also listed measures the government has taken to tackle the perennial challenge of jailbreaks in Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how over 5000 inmates have escaped from Nigerian correctional centres in one year. 
‘Suicide Mission’
The minister, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Innovation/Delivery, Ademola Adeyinka, said ‘’anyone who attacks any correctional facility in Nigeria now is on a suicide mission’’.
Delivering a keynote address on the theme of the BNLF seminar, ‘The current security challenges – impact on voter apathy’, the minister was responding to questions from a participant on what the government was doing to stop jailbreaks.
The official, who earlier commended the leadership of BNLF for its contribution towards national development since it was established in 2001, said the ministry has started taking the DNA and bio-metric information of all inmates across the country as a first step to securing the prisons while also beefing up security across such facilities.
‘’Sometimes you may not be able to forestall a jail attack 100 per cent. What we are concerned about is that if anybody escapes, they can only run from the law, they cannot hide from the law. That is what we are trying to achieve,’’ the minister said.
‘’For instance, the federal government has declared all custodial centres as critical national assets. And being critical national assets, we are mobilising extra armed guards to protect these national assets. We are not likely to experience any other jail attack in this country.”
‘Prison breaks started with EndSARS’
The official also said external attacks on prison facilities started with the EndSARS protest against police brutality in 2020.
‘’Prisoners have always attempted to get out of prison. The normal thing was for the insurgency to happen inside from the inmates from those facilities,’’ he said.
‘’A few incidents have happened like that in the past when the inmates did try to escape. But when you are talking about external attacks on custodial facilities, you cannot run away from the fact that it started with the EndSARS. You recall the case in Benin, there was an external attack.’’
‘’That was the first times we had people look into custodial facilities, seeking to free inmates. An attack on such facilities, which is a symbol of the country’s sovereign authority- because those who are there have been kept there legally… for anybody to attack such facility, it is like saying I don’t respect your law and that is an attack on the sovereignty of Nigeria. It may look uncomfortable but the first external attack we have had on custodial centres started in Benin with the EndSARS protest.
‘’It is not saying there was a problem with the EndSARS protest. An attack could also have happened with the (recent) protest by doctors, if they feel that is the best way to express their grievances against the government but we cannot also eliminate the fact that we had not (before EndSARS) experienced a situation where external actors took up arms and freed inmates but we have seen where the prisoners overpowered the warders…’’
The minister highlighted measures being taken to rehabilitate existing custodial centres.
He said the government is planning on building 3000-capacity custodial centres in each geo-political zone of the country. He also called for more funding for custodial centres.

‘’The U.S. budget for all its custodial centres is more than the total budget for Nigeria. That tells you one thing and that it the U.S does not take security lightly. This requires also that we explore creative funding to meet the needs of these centres.’’
On the topic of the event, the minister said while insecurity hinders the participation of voters in the electoral process, it is not the only factor.
He said lethargy on the part of voters, cumbersome/glitchy electoral process, and decreasing civic education were also factors hindering the participation of voters.
‘’Cases of electoral violence have been considerably curtailed. The security services have admirably minimised the capacity of political thugs and other merchants of violence to disrupt elections. Electoral contestation has shifted considerably to the courts,’’ he said.
‘’Given that electoral justice is being delivered by the court and that a fraudulently acquired electoral victory is easily upturned, violence is no longer attractive as an option.’’
Event
Meanwhile, Ololade Saromi, the vice chair of BNLF, said the event, apart from serving as a network for lawyers in Nigeria and the UK, was also organised as the group’s way of adding value to national development through constructive dialogues.
‘’We cannot overemphasise the importance of this topic,’’ he said. ‘’ As citizens of this illustrious and democratic nation, we cannot allow the disease of voter apathy to fester and undermine the efficacy of the democratic process in this republic.’’
He said BNLF is a ‘’vibrant professional organisation recognised by leading legal and professional bodies in the UK’’.
‘’It is made up of practicing lawyers, and students in the UK and Nigeria and provides business, networking and educational opportunities for its members in both jurisdictions.’’
The event, which also witnessed the issuance of awards of excellence, had in attendance the MD of FCMB Pensions, Christopher Bajowa; the Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association, John Aikpokpo; BNLF Nigeria Liaison Officer, Paul Esheyigba, top officers of BNLF and other dignitaries from the corporate and judicial sectors of Nigeria.

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Tosin Omoniyi is an assistant editor (Standards) with PREMIUM TIMES. He previously worked in different editorial capacities at Leadership, Daily Trust, Nigerian Newsworld and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, (ICIR). When not writing, he can be found honing his skills on stage as an actor. Twitter@toskolo

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