Senate

•Summons Interior Minster, Aregbesola, AGF Malami, NCS CG, Nababa

CG blames incessant attacks on Prisons on lack of fund to deploy technology

By Henry Umoru & Marie-Therese Nanlong

The Senate yesterday mandated its committee on interior to carry out a full scale investigation into causes of jail breaks across the country.

This came on a day the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa,  blamed lack of adequate funding for the inability of the Service to deploy technology in manning its Prisons nationwide.

Consequently, the Upper Chamber resolved to summon the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, to determine the status of correctional centres nationwide, with a view to finding out the challenges in order to prevent future occurrence..

These formed part of the resolutions reached by the Senate yesterday, following a motion, titled “Terror Attacks on two communities in Plateau North and Jail Break at the Jos Medium Security Correctional Centre Jos.” brought to the floor by Senator Istifanus Gyang at plenary.

Gyang, while coming under  orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules to present his motion, noted with grief the multiple terror attacks on two communities of Ta’egbe, Rigwe land and Durbi, Sheri District in Bassa and Jos East Local Governments, leading to the death of over ten persons over the weekend.

According to him, the attacks caused by a security breach at Jos Medium Security Correctional Centre, was a setback to the relative and much desired peace in Plateau North.

He disclosed that nine inmates, including an officer identified as Umar A. Mohammed, were also killed, while 252 inmates escaped during the jail break.

He said among the inmates at large, six were fatally injured, 10 of the escapees re-arrested, 63 sentenced to death, 27 convicted, and 181 awaiting trials.

Gyang said that the invaders responsible for the break “walked through a security zone and broke through to have over 200 inmates escape from the Centre.”

He added that the warders who put up a fight against the invaders were overwhelmed during a gun battle against the attackers.

Contributing, Senator Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North) blamed the spate of insecurity in Nigeria on the inadequate number of personnel across the various security agencies in the country.

He, therefore, called on the National Assembly to rise to the occasion by appropriating more funds to security agencies to enable them undertake recruitment of more personnel.

The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), attributed the recent jail breaks in the country to what he described as a “porous prisons system”.

He lamented that jailbreaks have become a recurring decimal which in recent times have exposed the lives of Nigerians to harm, as a result of prisoners on rampage to avenge their conviction.

On his part, the Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North), described the string of jail breaks across the country as “unfortunate”.

He said the development which must be tackled headlong was a fallout of correctional services being the weakest link in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over plenary yesterday, described the security breaches at Prison facilities as a “serious issue” that must be looked into.

Omo-Agege also canvassed  more funding to the office of the National Security Adviser to facilitate intelligence gathering.

He said, “Having given all the requisite funding to the security agencies, why are we still having these challenges? I think it is something we need to sleep over.

“But in the interim, it is clear that we have a serious intelligence gathering gap, there’s no debate about that.

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“I think the Department of State Services, DSS and  especially the office of the NSA, have not been given the kind of funding that is required for this fight, because they are the ones that are in charge of intelligence gathering.

“I’ve always taken the position that the office of the NSA, most especially, has been underfunded.

“He is supposed to be the one coordinating intelligence gathering and providing such intelligence to other agencies for them to give requisite protection.

“If the office of the NSA is not properly funded, then of course it means that we are all in trouble.

“I think this is something that we must appeal to Mr. President, and even here in the leadership of the National Assembly, to look into for additional funding for the office of the NSA and, possibly, that of the DSS before the budget is finally tabled for consideration.”

Accordingly, the Senate in its resolutions called for a reinforcement of physical protection system and mechanism at correctional centres across the nation by the Ministry of Interior to forestall further attempts at jail breaks.

The chamber maintained that the attacks on Ta’egbe and Durbi communities in Plateau North and other communities across the nation require more decisive and proactive measures by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector General of Police, to secure law abiding citizens from incessant terror attacks, particularly now that the long awaited proscription of bandits as terrorists has been formalized by the Federal Government.

The Chamber also commended the Judiciary for the recent judgement by the Federal High Court declaring all bandits and insurgents as terrorists, adding that doing so has empowered the military to take appropriate action against them.

It also mandated the Committee on Interior to invite the Minister of Interior, the Attorney General of the Federation and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, in order to carry out full scale investigation of the status of correctional centres nationwide, with a view to finding out the challenges to prevent future recurrence of jail breaks.

The Senate, thereafter, observed a minute silence in prayers for the victims from Ta’egbe and Durbi communities, who lost their lives during attacks on the Jos Correctional Centre.

Meanwhile, the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, has blamed lack of adequate funding for the inability of the Service to deploy technology in manning its custodial centres nationwide.

The CG made this known yesterday when he visited the Jos medium security Custodial Centre which was attacked on Sunday evening by gunmen.

Represented by the Deputy Controller-General, (Operations), Mohammed Tukur, the CG explained that there was no way custodial centres would be adequately manned manually, except with the help of technology.

“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,” he said.

Speaking with journalists shortly after inspecting the custodial centre, he disclosed that armed guards on duty were overpowered before help came, adding that so far, 17 of the 252 inmates that escaped on Sunday had been recaptured.

He also expressed optimism that with the assistance from sister security agencies, the fleeing inmates would be recaptured soon.

The CG said:  “On the faithful day, the attackers came, met armed men outside the gate of the correctional facility and before they knew what was happening, the attackers had gunned down one of them and the remaining officers had to engage them.

“However, because of the number of the assailants that came, they were able to penetrate into the main yard of the custodial centre and some of our inmates escaped. Some through the fence, some through the door here. From the door here, if not for the repairs, you would have seen the bullet holes here. That is how they got in.

“Because of the vibrancy of our men, they were able to stop everybody from going out. If you look at this, you will see that we have Police headquarters, Police barracks, in front of the custodial centre and the DSS is behind us, all these people including the military and the NSCDC were all here to help in seeing that all of these people did not go out.

“To them, we are grateful. That is the essence of synergy. Some of the inmates died through bullet wounds, we also lost a staff, an armed guard. One of the staff was wounded and six of the inmates are right now in the hospital receiving treatments from bullet wounds and scratches.”

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