THIS was the first time that the posting of prisoners from one part of the country to another by the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) was causing such a fluster among a cross-section of Nigerians. But these were no ordinary prisoners. They were 47 convicted members of the murderous Islamist sect, Boko Haram, who were recently sent to the Ekwulobia Prisons in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
When the news was confirmed as not being a mere rumour, a series of peaceful protests and demonstrations took place all over Anambra State and other parts of the South East, with markets being shut down to show the depth of the peoples rejection of the unwanted ‘guests”.
An unhealthy touch of politics was added to it when the Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, had initially debunked the “rumour”, while Governor Willie Obiano and Chief Security Officer of Anambra State, appeared to fully back the protests with a view to getting the Prison authorities to rescind their decision.
Ordinarily, the Nigerian Prisons Service, as the sole administrator and custodian of all correctional facilities in the country, has the authority to send prisoners within its custody to any part of the country. However, this issue is a bit different because the Ekwulobia Prisons is not known to be a maximum security facility able to keep these special inmates safely locked away from other prisoners and the host community. Their mere presence within the bowels of a congested local community like Ekwulobia is bound to cause the people sleepless nights, in view of the several jail breaks that their members have perpetrated in places like Koton Karfe and Lokoja in Kogi State in efforts to free their members.
We encourage the Anambra State Government to continue the engagement that has been established between it and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to find an amicable and lasting solution to the controversy. It is the only sane and patriotic thing to do.
We must desist from allowing the situation to degenerate to unhealthy politics of seeing it from ethno-religious and sectional prism, which is capable of creating unnecessary tension. The Boko Haram headache is one that we, as Nigerians, must be ready to share as citizens of one country. But it must be handled in such a way that people are not given the impression that their genuine fears are inconsequential.
The Federal Government must recognise the fact that terrorism as a violent crime is here with us. We must confront it taking into account how other more experienced countries handle such without multiplying a problem in efforts to solve it.