WHEN residents on Sunday
evening at about 5.20 p.m heard sounds of gunshots around West of Mines, a popular relaxation area in the heart of Jos, the capital city of Plateau State, they probably thought another “Jos crisis” had erupted.

Those who were already seated at the various spots scampered to safety. Passersby along Ahmadu Bello Way, Kashim Ibrahim Street, Barracks Road, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, J. D. Gomwalk Road and wherever the sounds of gunshots were heard took to their heels, running to wherever they thought safe.

Stories started flying on the diverse social media until it was confirmed that the over one-hour shooting came from the vicinity of the Jos Custodial Centre which came under attack by gunmen who set hundreds of prisoners free. Remarkably, the custodial centre is surrounded by different security agencies like the Police headquarters, Police CID, A Division, DSS, Police and Correctional Service barracks, thus leaving many wondering how the gun men successfully carried out the attack and disappeared without even one being arrested.

Although residents were relieved that they were the target of the attack this time, there is palpable fear of a possible increased criminal activities as over 200 inmates who escaped from custody are now roaming the streets. The Sunday incident was not the first attack on the facility. It had been attacked by criminals in the past. The inmates set free during the first attack are yet to be recaptured. But the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, assured that the situation this time would be different as all hands are on deck to recapture those involved in the incident.

A resident, Timothy Ndam, appealed to security agencies to intensify their efforts in order to recapture the fleeing inmates, stressing that: “These guys have been out of circulation for long, they will need money. Expect that cases of pickpocketing, robbery, kidnapping and all sorts of crime will increase because they will do that to get money to survive. Since the identity of some of these people were revealed, they may even engage in isolated attacks in the hinterlands.” 

Also, a resident of Jenta Adamu who did not want to be named said: “On that Sunday, I did not know there was prison break, but a man came to us as we were seated and asked for slippers. We never paid any attention as we were concerned with the gunshots. He left immediately but we later learnt that people’s clothes were missing in the area.

It was later when we established the cause of the gunshots that we knew that man must have been an escaped prisoner. No stone should be left unturned in recapturing them before they do more harm in the society.” 

However, Nababa blamed lack of adequate funding for the inability of the service to deploy technology in manning its custodial centres, nationwide. The Comptroller- General, represented by the Deputy Comptroller-General(Operations), Mohammed Tukur, visited the facility, Plateau Specialists Hospital and the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, where one NCoS personnel and seven inmates are receiving treatment.  

He explained that there is no way custodial centres would be adequately manned except with the help of technology, stressing: “If we don’t have enough releases from the government, there is no way we will be able to cover all our custodial centres with CCTV”.

Explaining the situation, he noted: “Armed guards on duty were overpowered before help came and so far, 17 out of the 252 inmates that escaped on Sunday have been recaptured and we are optimistic that with the assistance from sister security agencies, the fleeing inmates would be recaptured in no distance time. Search is ongoing, sister security agencies are helping us to get them back, already, 17 as of today (Wednesday) have been recaptured and we have the hope that with the things we have on ground, we will be able to capture a good number of them.

“Technology could be used to monitor our facilities; we have CCTV in some of our centres, but CCTV can be provided according to releases from the government, if we don’t have enough releases from the government, there is no way we will be able to cover all our custodial centres with CCTV. Even here, the CCTV will be installed as soon as we get money but it is not automatic that every custodial centre will get CCTV at the same time.”  

Meanwhile, he asked inmates on admission in the hospital to “maintain good conducts”, assuring them that their medical bills and feeding would be taken care of by the Service.

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