20/Aug/2016 // 335 Viewers
SATURDAY PUNCH: Residents and communities around porous prisons are apprehensive following a recent threat by the Boko Haram terror group to attack detention facilities in the country.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the residents’ fears became heightened because of the proximity of their houses to the prisons.
They complained that their observation of the detention facilities did not indicate that there were adequate precautions to prevent any attack from Boko Haram, should the sect carry out its threat.
Boko Haram had threatened to attack prisons in Lagos, Maiduguri, Abuja and other cities in the country to forcefully release its members detained by the Federal Government.
An armed Boko Haram insurgent early in the week threatened in an 11-minute footage that the terror group would attack prison facilities in the country should the Federal Government fail to release its detained members.
The insurgent had said, “I specially inform our people in captivity in Lagos that they should be patient and continue with their prayers, God will take us to where no one expects and we will rescue them.
“All those in Lagos, Maiduguri and other southern parts of the country; keep praying, very soon, we will rescue you.”
Saturday PUNCH’s visit to Okaka Prison in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, revealed that the facility is surrounded by residential buildings. In spite of the noticeable security architecture around the facility, including four watchtowers and high perimeter fence, some residents around the area are still living in fear.
Even the presence of the two armoured personnel carriers parked in front of the prison could not allay their fears.
One of them, Doris Richie, said since it was reported that Boko Haram members threatened to attack prisons in the country, she had been living in fear.
Richie said, “We do not know what to do. Left to me, the government should relocate the prison to another place because of its closeness to residential places.”
In spite of the tight security at Kuje prison, Abuja, the proximity of the facility to the residential areas has always been a source of concern to the people living around the place.
Kuje prison had hosted many prominent persons, including many Peoples Democratic Party’s bigwigs, who were remanded in the facility for their alleged role in the looting of public treasury.
A commercial motorcyclist, Abdullah Sadiq, said he had not been comfortably sleeping since he heard that Boko Karam named Abuja prison as of the places it planned to attack.
He said, “If not for my poor financial situation, I would have moved out of this area since I heard that Boko Haram members were being kept here. Though more soldiers had been deployed in the prisons and the surrounding area, I still nurse the fear that the insurgents may carry out their threat.”
A shop-keeper near the prison, who simply identified herself as Madam Rose, shared a similar view.
She urged the government to relocate the prison to “a location that is far removed from residential places.”
It will be recalled that 47 Boko Haram convicts kept in Ekwulobia prison in Aguata Local Government Area in Anambra State were relocated from the facility to elsewhere after persistent outcry by the residents around the place.
There are no fewer than 11 prisons in Katsina State. The prisons are located in Katsina town, Funtua, Daura, Malumfashi, Jibia, Dutsinma and Mani.
One of them, the Katsina Central Prison, is surrounded by many residential houses and shops.
Residents and traders living and working around the facility, who spoke with one of our correspondents, expressed their apprehension over the Boko Haram’s threat.
A motorcycle repairer in the area, Mallam Habiibu Aminu, appealed to the government to relocate the prison to the outskirts of the town.
“We will appreciate it if the prison is relocated to the outskirts of the town; I have not been able to sleep since I heard the news that Boko Haram could attack prisons,” Aminu said.
There are three prisons in Benue State –Gboko, Otukpo and Makurdi. Of the three, Gboko prison is the largest and the oldest. It is also experiencing a major structural defect. The situation has made the prison’s authorities to relocate all male inmates to the Makurdi prison.
According to a reliable source, the Makurdi prison has capacity for 214 people but it’s currently accommodating 450 people.
It was, however, observed that the Makurdi prison, which is located at Kanshio community along Otukpo- Aliade Federal Highway, has no security light at the main entrance, but there was a watchtower at the premises with no sign of CCTV.
The prison is also located close to schools, Kanshio main Market, the Makurdi mechanic village and welfare quarters as well as headquarters of the Lower Benue Basic Development Authority, Makurdi.
Some residents, who spoke with our correspondent, expressed fears that if there is any attack on the Makurdi prison, many people would fall victims because of the porous facility.
The Kwara State House of Assembly appears to be leading the campaign for the relocation of Oke-Kura and Mandala prisons in the state because of their proximity to residential buildings.
Besides the daily social and business activities going on around the Oke-Kura and Mandala prisons, one of our correspondents observed that there was no functional CCTV to monitor the movements of people, including strangers at the facilities.
The Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker had recently, in a resolution, called on the state government to collaborate with the Federal Government to relocate the Oke-Kura in Ilorin to a more secure and convenient location.
The state House of Assembly Speaker, Ali Ahmad, reiterated the House’s position in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday.
Ahmad said, “We have noticed the feelings of the people. When Oke-Kura was built, it was adequate for the purpose but now, it is in the middle of town. Oke-Kura is no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was established. The House of Assembly had passed a resolution, calling on the Federal Government to expand the Mandala prison.”
It was learnt that Olokuta prison in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State, like other detention facilities in the country, has a history of jailbreaks.
The last jailbreak at Olokuta prison occurred on June 30, 2014 when some gunmen attacked the facility and set inmates free.
The prison is located about 500 meters from the host community and it was observed that there was one watchtower with no CCTV in or around the yard.
A resident of Olokuta village, who identifies himself as Ali, urged the government and the prison officials to prevent any form of attack on the facility.
He said, “I have a farm not too far from the prison like many other people in the village. So, it is necessary for the government to prove that it is ready to prevent any attack on the community. With Boko Haram’s threat, our lives and properties could be in danger.”
Residents of Nsukka in Enugu State told one of our correspondents that they had yet to overcome the trauma they suffered during the August 9, 2016 jailbreak in Nsukka prison. No fewer than 25 inmates reportedly escaped in the incident.
In a related development in neighbouring Ebonyi State, several inmates were on Thursday feared dead while many sustained gunshot wounds following a foiled jailbreak in Abakaliki federal prison.
Despite the fact that the perimeter fence at Ilesa prison, Osun State, is high, residents expressed doubts that it could prevent an attack from the Boko Haram sect.
“The threat by the Boko Haram members should be taken seriously,” one of the residents, Mr. Taiwo Adeyemi, said, while asking the prison officers to work with other security agencies to ensure that any attack is prevented.
At the Agodi Prisons in Ibadan, Oyo State, insecurity has become a daily concern.
Nine years after a jailbreak left at least 40 of the inmates dead, little has changed in the security arrangement of the prison. Residents described the situation as bad because of the regular human and vehicular traffics around the prison as a result of its proximity to the Agodi Auto Spare Parts Market.
It was observed that its compound is sometimes used as park by customers who visit the market while the yard is surrounded by a dilapidated fence through which people go in and out as they please.
A trader in the spare parts market, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said he remembered the last jailbreak in which many inmates were shot dead.
“I pray nothing like that happens again here but the insecurity in this country is enough to frighten us. A prison is not a joke. We don’t even know the kind of people who are locked up here. And with the situation here, we are really afraid that something bad could happen,” he said.
Goron Dutse Prison, Kano, located within the heart of the metropolis is surrendered by a cluster of congested residential buildings.
Observation by one of our correspondents revealed that the facility could be accessed through many unofficial ways.
Saturday PUNCH investigation revealed that during a routine search by warders this week in some prisons facilities across the country, some inmates rejected the move, which led to a fracas.
Speaking on the threat by the Boko Haram insurgents to attack some prisons in the country, a seasoned security expert, Mr. Chigozie Ubani, described the fears of residents as genuine.
He said, “Their fears are genuine and security is everybody’s business. Boko Haram insurgents will not likely come in armoured vehicles to storm the place. They might take some time to penetrate that environment, so it means certain elements have to come into those communities, remain there for some time and do the planning, if they plan to attack the prisons.
However, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Prison Service, Mr. Francis Enabore, dismissed the residents’ fear.
He said the service had an established arrangement with sister agencies like the police, Department of State Services and the Army on the issue of security.
Enabore said, “We appeal to people living around the prisons to avail us with intelligence to help nib such security issues in the bud because sometimes, jailbreaks are planned outside the prison by friends of some inmates.”