Charles Nwoke, Nigeria
Nigeria Federal Government disclosed that no fewer than 1,993 inmates were set free from two correction centers in Edo State by some protesters under the guise of EndSARS protests.
In a statement signed by the director of public relations and media, Ministry of Interior, Mohammed Manga, he stated that other villainous activities were also carried out 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 centers, including the weapons in their armory.”
The statement has it that the attackers who bore dangerous weapons attacked the officers on guard, forced the cells open, freed the prisoners, and carried out other inglorious activities.
In the statement, Mr. Manga explained that the situation is now under control, as necessary security apparatus has been beefed up in and around correctional centers nationwide. They have equally commenced an investigation to ascertain the impact of the attack.
The PRO who however could not hide the feelings of his ministry acknowledged that peaceful protest is legitimate and guaranteed as a fundamental right of citizens operating as individuals and groups, but he stressed that attacking a custodial center is a criminal act which detracts from the set goals of the movement and capable of imputing impure motives to its drivers.
“It must be reiterated that custodial centers 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 centers is therefore fundamental to justice. Inmates of the centers 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”, the statement reads.
They lamented that most of the freed inmates who were held at the centers are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offenses, 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. The 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 protest 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 centers.
“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.
The statement appealed that anyone who notices any person or persons that might have escaped from the correctional centers should, as a patriotic citizen, inform any security agency nearest to you.