By Evelyn Usman & Esther Onyegbula
Lagos—The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, yesterday in Lagos, attributed last Friday’s riot at the Kirikiri Medium Prison, Lagos, which left two persons dead and several others injured, to congestion and unlimited freedom accorded inmates.
As at yesterday, it was gathered that a total of 2,536 inmates were at the Medium Prison . Out of this number, 98 are convicts with 2,434 others were awaiting trial.
Moro who was on a visit to the Medium Prison disclosed that the riot was orchestrated by one of the convicts whom he alleged incited other inmates.
It was gathered that the riot was sparked off by the detention of one of the inmates for over an hour. The detained inmate popularly known as GOC, was said to have contracted the services of a technician to fix ceiling fans and speakers inside the Church’s auditorium . However, while the technician was fixing the ceiling fans, a Prison official was said to have accosted him, arguing that they were not aware of the installation.
It was gathered that the Chief Warder and Welfare officers, thereafter, allegedly detained GOC. His detention was said to have sparked off protest ,with the inmates describing the action as an infringement on their privileges and rights. The protest degenerated into a riot , during which some inmates attempted to scale the high walls.
In the process, one of them was allegedly shot dead with others sustaining bullet wounds. Vanguard gathered that some prison wardens were also injured.
Next day (Saturday) one of the inmates reportedly died in the hospital with the fate of others were unknown as at yesterday.
Explaining what happened, Moro said: “From the information made available, the immediate cause of the riot is that an inmate came unauthorised and installed some gadgets without the knowledge of the officials.
“What it meant therefore was that a convict, who brought in some gadgets, instigated the inmates to complain and that led to the fracas. But, the police and other security agencies have intervened and calmed down the situation.
“More fundamentally, there is need for us to think about the level of freedom the inmates enjoy, in line with international practices. The two gatherings attended by the inmates are those in the chapel and the mosque.
‘’The world over, one worship ground is usually provided for inmates. The prison services must review the institutions of worship in our prisons.
“What also comes to mind is the state of facilities in some of our prisons. It requires some level of rehabilitation. At the moment, we have the issue of congestion, and it is very unacceptable that we have a prison which is accommodating 2,536 inmates. Out of this number, only 98 are convicts. We have 2,434 inmates awaiting trial.
“When we finish our assessment, we will be able to address the problem of congestion in our prisons. The president has approved an inter-ministerial committee for this. This is one committee that will come up with some solutions on this. We are working on that. We must have facilities that conform to the international practices.”
As at yesterday, security checks at the three prisons in Kirikiri town have been intensified. Visitors as gathered, were barred from entering as at Saturday, with armed security men positioned at the Maximum, Medium and Female prisons.
There were however, conflicting report on the exact number of deaths. While the Prisons stated that only one inmate died, sources claimed that five may have lost their lives.
The Prisons Public Relations Officer, Ope Fatinikun had on Saturday said: “ indeed , there was a riot at Medium Security Prison , Kirikiri, Lagos, Friday, at about 1.30pm. It was a riot and not jailbreak. The riot was quickly brought under control.
Meanwhile, Acting Controller General of Prisons, Aminu Suley, has immediately set up put a probe panel to investigate the reasons of the riot.
In addition, seven inmates of the prison were injured, three inmates were treated and discharged in the Prison’s clinic, four inmates were admitted in various hospitals. One out of four died this morning(Saturday). The remaining three are still receiving treatment in the hospitals”, Fatinikun said.
But information at Vanguard’s disposal revealed that an an inmate had Saturday night , sent a text message via a telephone earlier smuggled inside, to a relative informing that about five inmates were already dead. The awaiting trial inmate (names withheld) in the text alleged that those shot were deliberately shot at, as against claims that they attempted to escape. .
Part of the text message by the graduate of Economics from one of the tertiary institutions in the country, said: ‘ I have no intention of escaping because I know I will get justice… There are agitations over the seizure of our personal items such as power generating sets, cooking pot and even raw food stuff brought in by our relatives. They do not give us good food yet they will not allow us to cook.
Yesterday, (Friday) they wanted to seize a fan which belonged to a pastor and inmates started rioting”