Nigeria Appoints New Controller General Of Prisons; Immediately Suffers Another Mass Jail Break

Sarah Myles

Nigeria is investigating its third mass jail break in two months, as Saturday night saw gunmen break into a medium security prison in Minna and facilitate the escape of a large number of prisoners. Reports of the number of inmates that managed to flee vary, but all place the total at between 200 – 300 individuals. While law enforcement officers have managed to recapture some (between 10 and 65) by Sunday morning, the rest remain at large.

On November 3, gunmen bombed a prison wall in south central Kogi, allowing 144 prisoners to go free. On December 1, over 300 inmates absconded from a facility in southwest Ekiti. Saturday's prison break brings the total of escapees in eight weeks to over 500. Such a large number is alarming, however, The Daily Star notes that the statistics of the Nigeria Prison Service indicate only 18,042 of the country's current 56,785 inmates have actually been convicted of a crime. The majority of others are, to all intents and purposes, being held indefinitely. In addition, the living conditions inside the prisons of Nigeria have long been cause for concern, with the most basic bedding and food being scarce, and medical care being missing from the system entirely. Overcrowding and physical violence are also a serious issues – not least with 68 percent of the prison population still awaiting trial. The percentage of escapees that have been officially convicted of a crime is unknown.

While authorities have yet to receive a claim of responsibility from any specific organisation for this crime, the previous two prison breaks are widely accepted as having been coordinated by the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group, in what is assumed to be attempts to free members of their organisation. This theory is something alluded to by a police spokesperson for Niger state while discussing the latest incident, according to Reuters.

"It's unclear if this is Boko Haram or some criminal gangs. I doubt there were many high profile Boko Haram suspects being held in Minna."
"[The] preliminary report shows that there is no evidence to link Boko Haram to the prison break incident of Saturday.

"I am assuring the President and Minister of Interior that security challenges facing us will be tackled head on. Justice must be done and restoration security of the prisons shall be paramount."

"I am assuring the President and Minister of Interior that security challenges facing us will be tackled head on. Justice must be done and restoration security of the prisons shall be paramount."

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