By Demola Akinyemi
Penultimate Thursday, what could best be described as mutiny happened at Mandala Prison Yard and Federal Prison, Okekura, both in Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that about 76 condemned inmates from the facilities had been holding nocturnal meetings until penultimate Tuesday when their leader summoned the prison officials to unfold thirteen demands which must be met within twenty four hours.
Sources said agitation by prison inmates,particularly the condemned ones, was not strange in the last months of the year to draw the attention of the governor who has the sole power to grant them clemency in the new year.
It was gathered that condemned prison inmates also need the governors’ assent for them to be executed; so the end of the year period is strategic to them.
The demands of the condemned prison inmates in the two Ilorin prison yards included that they wanted to be eating four pieces of meat per meal. They also demanded to be allowed to use phones, MP3 player and that they will like to be going out five hours daily, among others.
The prison officials were said to have explained to the inmates that they had no such powers to grant those requests, and so will send the requests to the prison headquarters in Abuja which will look into them and reply, hence the need for them to be patient.
The leader of the inmates reportedly immediately disagreed with the prison officials, saying they had no such patience,and, therefore, threatened to revolt against the authorities.
Consequently, the authorities beefed up security around the two prison yards,but were caught napping as the later events turned out to be fatal.
Ahead of the fateful Thursday, the condemned inmates, according to sources, had packed their faeces and urine together and, as the day broke, they started throwing the faeces and pouring out urine at every prison official in sight and pandemonium erupted.
The condemned inmates were said to have broken loose, headed for the main gate and broke it down, thereby forcing themselves into the main compound of the prison yards. The incident were said to have occurred simultaneously in the two prison yards at a time senior officials were having their usual brief at their administrative office in the GRA, Ilorin.
Immediately they were alerted of the development, the confused officials called for reinforcement from sister security agencies in Kwara which bombarded the prison yards and overwhelmed the rampaging inmates. In the process, six of inmates reportedly died while seven others are still lying critically ill in hospital.
Confirming the development,the Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Prison Service, Kwara State,Mr Philips Adegbulugbe, said: “It is unfortunate that we lost six of the condemned inmates.”
He narrated how the incident happened: “It happened like this: On Tuesday, November 15,2016,the officer in charge of Oke-kura Prison, Ilorin, ASP Usman Aliu Baba, ran to the State Comptroller of Prisons and told him that inmates were trying to take over the prison from him, that they wanted to see the Comptroller who then ordered top officers of the prison command to lead him down there.
“When he got there, the Comptroller met them, talked to them and appealed that he would find alternative means of addressing their demands.
“The following day,the Comptroller went there again and discovered that the inmates had listed 14-point demand,and that if the Comptroller was unable to meet the demands within 24 hours, they will take over the prison .”
The prison spokesman listed the condemned inmates demands as follows: That the Comptroller should be opening them everyday between 8am and 2pm, and 4pm to 6pm whereas the Prison Act Cap P2P stipulates that condemned inmates can only be allowed to look around an hour per day and then return to the cell.
“So, on that day, on getting to the office,we learnt that the nmates had taken over the yard,that they had started to throw faeces at the staff,to the extent that they wanted to force themselves out of the yard. Two of our men were injured.
“In an attempt to curb the situation,our armed men were ordered to tear gas them,and we were able to put the situation under control. It was the following day that we discovered that some of them were not alright and we rushed them to hospital. It was in that process that six inmates lost their lives.”
As of the time of talking, he said the place was peaceful and calm.
Following the disturbance, the Minister of Interor, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau, visited Ilorin, and ordered investigation into the inmates riot.
The Minister directed an intra ministerial committee to work with Nigeria Prisons management team towards unravelling the remote circumstances surrounding the incident,in order to avoid the repeat of such in any of the nations’ prison yards and sanction any official found culpable.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, who also visited the scene of the incident, canvassed urgent reforms of the prison systems in the country for the facilities to achieve the role of reforming prisoners before their re-entry into the society.