By Inwalomhe Donald
THE fallout from EndSARS protest in October 2020 has brought about innovation in the management of correctional centres in Nigeria. This follows the assertion of the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, that the police, Edo State Government, correctional services and the public will collaborate to re-arrest the rest of the escapees from Benin correctional centres sooner than later.
The minister announced a number of measures to improve security in correctional centres including discussions with the police to ensure appropriate classification of inmates so that high security detainees are not incarcerated in medium facilities, just as there will be intensification of biometric registration of all inmates to ensure that finger prints and photographs are readily available to assist in their proper identification and re-arrest. This also includes speedy conviction of the re-arrested escapees so that those responsible for serious crimes could be sent to high security facilities immediately.
The situation in Benin correctional centres have been stabilised with the facility and the emergency support team being activated. The minister says he is determined to ensure that the Benin Correctional Centres escapees are apprehended and put behind bars. The Department of State Security, the police and officials of the Nigerian Correctional Services had already commenced a manhunt for the runaway inmates after a seven-day grace the state government gave them has elapsed.
Aregbesola has also expressed confidence in the ability of members of task team that is involved in tracing and apprehending the fugitives. While lauding the tenacity of the task team in exploring all avenues to trace the fugitives, he stressed the need for community members to share valuable information with the police. Tracing these escapees would take much longer without valuable information being received from the law-abiding citizens.
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in his comment, said the state government will place a bounty for useful information that can lead to the re-arrest of escapees from two correctional facilities in the state. Obaseki made the statement while receiving members of the 11-man Committee on the re-arrest of the escapee prisoners led by Deputy Controller Corrections, DCC, Usifo Joseph. He said his administration has placed a bounty for useful information that can lead to the re-arrest of escapees from Benin correctional centres.
According to the governor, money will be made available to serve as incentives for the public to volunteer credible and vital information that will lead to the re-arrest of the escapee inmates from Benin correctional facilities. Also, a website will soon be launched with detailed information on identities of the escapees with their pictures displayed, while he added that the government will not rest until every inmate that escaped from the Benin Correctional facilities has been rearrested.
The governor noted that those who stayed back and refused to participate in the jail break might be pardoned. He said: “Please, let me have their list and see if we can consider the option of pardon. We will make available a huge sum of money that will serve as incentives for the public to volunteer credible and vital information that will lead to the re-arrest of the escapee inmates from Benin correctional facilities. We would make available vehicles for this committee for easy movement during this season to facilitate their job.”
Obaseki said a website will soon be launched with detailed information on the identities of the escapees with their pictures displayed. He noted: “We would like to have the list of the most dangerous ones among them. I would like to strengthen the effectiveness of the strike force of the committee. We urge landlords and landladies to cooperate with the committee and Edo State Government by providing vital and valuable information that will lead to the arrest of the escapee prisoners. Any landlord or landlady harbouring any of these inmates will be immediately prosecuted. We would not rest until we re-arrest every inmate that escaped from the Benin Correctional facilities. Additional charges would be prepared to add to the already existing charges of th0e escapees.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the committee said 1,829 inmates escaped from Benin correctional facilities and 85 of them have been re-arrested from different parts of the country. “We have re-captured 85 of the escapees and more have been captured and are with the Commissioner of Police and they will be returned to the correctional centers after proper identification,” he said.
The Federal Government has already condemned October’s invasion of the Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS Custodial Centres in Benin City and Oko in Edo state, saying it has begun a manhunt for about 1,993 inmates who were freed from both facilities. Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said in a statement signed by the Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Mohammed Manga, that many of the fleeing inmates were convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes. He said their release was, therefore, a breach of national security and constitutes a clear and present danger for the society.
Donald, a social commentator, wrote via [email protected]