WHEN we lose our sense of shame, when we cease aspiring for excellence, we can explain anything with the abundance of words that we think are good enough for situations.
The Bauchi Prisons jail break was a veritable opportunity for the authorities to emphasise their loss of touch with their responsibilities to the larger society, even to themselves. The explanations that they are mounting for the security lapses that resulted in the jail break are at least frightening. They say a lot about the undiluted carelessness about the safety of Nigerians.
We are meant to accept that there are times when security at our prisons are acceptably lax because guards are praying or have gone off to have their meals, or possibly sought the pleasure of the convenience: all of them off guard at the same time.
In which country, except ours, would this be an explanation for a jail break? When would people start being responsible for the offices they occupy at huge costs to the public purse? We think that there could have been collusion in the jail break and that is what the authorities should invest some attention in investigating.
Soon the jail break would be forgotten. The promises of better security at prisons would also be unfulfilled until the next jail break when the one in Bauchi would become an ordinary reference.
Our desperation to sweep away problems is notorious. In the midst of campaigns, in the unrelenting quest for power, in the more precarious pursuit of determining those who do not gain power, an ordinary jail break cannot amount to much in the scale of national priorities.
It rates below foreign visits, party primaries, investments in instruments of intimidation and deciding the uttermost public good for the benefit of more than 150 million people, who remain clueless about choices they are being asked to make in less than four months.
The Bauchi jail break has serious implications for security without which elections are not realisable. Of the more than 700 inmates who gunmen freed during an attack on the prison, more than 100 were members of the Boko Haram religious sect that caused problems about a year ago. They were awaiting trial.
Whatever informed having that number of a sect in the same prison says something about the understanding of security among those who made the decision. The absence of intelligence (or ignoring it) has again come to the core.
Last year when Boko Haram struck, one of the obtuse explanations the loss of hundreds of lives was that there was a break down of intelligence. Residents, however, insisted that it was worse than break down of intelligence. There seemed to have been outright ignoring of petitions that people filed with the security agencies about the sect. Not much seems to have changed as the clinical execution of the jail break testified.
How many people were involved in the attack in Bauchi? How was it possible for them to have acted without detection? How were they able to evacuate hundreds of the inmates? How much protection (including surveillance equipment) do our prisons have?
Are warders equipped enough to repel attacks at prisons? What manner of security arrangements makes it possible for guards to be off their beats at the same time?
A strong scent of sabotage swirls round this jail break. The authorities are merely dancing round the issue. In acting that way, they are postponing the dangers that lurk. A thorough investigation of this breach is critical to reforming prison security and forestalling future jail breaks.
Threats that Boko Haram would attack other prisons, in other cities, should not be taken lightly. Moreover, if they can break away freely from Bauchi, what stops other criminals from storming prisons to free their members?
What we should be dealing with is not only the breach in Bauchi Prisons, but the high possibilities that jail breaks can occur at any of our detention facilities – Boko Haram has made that point plainly.