Metro

June 25, 2024

Jailbreak: We won’t allow repeat of Suleja incident, FG vows

Suleja Prison escape

By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja

The Federal Government has said it will not allow the fate which befell its Medium Security Custodial Centre in Suleja on April 24 to befall any of its 256 Custodial Centres across the country, saying it is rehabilitating the centres accordingly.

On April 24, rainfall destroyed the walls of the Suleja Custodial Centre and led to the escape of 118 inmates, some of who are still at large.

At the time, the Federal government was already reconstructing parts of the wall, but the heavy rains pulled down a section that had not yet been rehabilitated.

Speaking on Monday night after inspecting the ongoing 3,000-capacity Custodial Centre in Karshi, Abuja as well as the old and new custodial centres in Keffi, Nasarawa state, Interior minister, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo also restated his resolve to ensure the relocation of some custodial facilities facing the challenge of urbanization.

At the New Medium Security Custodial Centre in Keffi, Dr Tunji-Ojo said a total of 750 inmates were being held in the facility, with a capacity for 340 inmates. Of the 750 inmates, a total of 605 of them were awaiting trial.

He said; “Our correctional centres, as we said, have changed from prisons to the Correctional Service. And obviously, it means that there has to be a paradigm shift in ideology, from a place of incarceration to a place of transformation, a place of reformation, and a place of correction.

“We were earlier at Karshi to look at the work that is going on there with regards to the 3000 capacity Custodial Centre. Of course, we have one or two observations, which I will not like to share in front of the cameras.

“When we get back to the office, then we will sit down as the ministry and the NCoS come together to brainstorm solutions to some of the issues we realized.

“Here in Keffi, the custodial centres are highly populated, and the number of inmates is quite high. We have in Keffi alone, two correctional centres, Keffi new and Keffi old; we have over 1000. That is a huge number – almost 1500.

“We came to look at it, and of course, you know a lot of inmates from FCT get here. We have come to look, and we saw the perimeter fencing because, as we have always said, we do not want a repeat of what happened in Suleja”.

According to him, part of the measures is to erect concrete perimeter fence around the facilities.

“We are really investing in perimeter fencing in institutions. You can see, just this year, that perimeter fencing before was just the barbwire, which is transparent for everybody to see inside. The concrete fencing is now complete.

“In Keffi old, I was told now that it was a correctional centre that was actually established in 1820. So, you know, how old are we? We are talking about over 200 years. The walls were weak, but today you can see our concrete walls have been fully erected.

“We are not just limiting it to here. We have done our infrastructure audit, and our government is doing everything possible to make sure that the force majeure that happened in Suleja does not happen anywhere.

“But I have to say this: we have 256 correctional centres, and these 256 correctional centres have been here for more than 100 years. When I speak of 1820, you know, this is 2024, which tells you that this correctional centre is arguably over 200 years old. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not become president 200 years ago.

“Obviously, we are taking each one at a time, and we are making progress, and we are happy with the progress that we have been able to make”, he added.

The minister also reiterated his resolve to ensure the relocation of some facilities from urban centres.

“You can see what I mean by urbanization; you can see civilian houses sharing fences with the Correctional Centre here in Keffi. It means that this is not sustainable.

“We have to think about relocation because of the effects of urbanization. Perhaps we will be putting everything in motion to upgrade the facility and to build more facilities in the Keffi New to be able to relocate the Keffi old to the Keffi New,” he said.