ARMY DETAINS SOLDIERS ON PRISON GUARD DUTY IN UNDERGROUND FACILITY

They’re only answering questions – Guards Brigade | Prisons boss denied access to president, security briefings |

Investigations in the terrorist attack at the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre have continued as the Nigerian Army has detained the soldiers on duty on that fateful day for questioning.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that terrorists broke into Kuje prison in Abuja on July 5 and freed hundreds of inmates, including 64 Boko Haram members.

The military, the intelligence services and the Nigerian Correctional Services have been under pressure because of the security failures to prevent the attack and/or repel the terrorists when they launched.

This is just as sources have revealed the constraints prison authorities face in the administration of custodial  facilities across the country. The Controller General of the NCoS is said to be mostly in the dark regarding intelligence updates and getting access to the president.

According to LEADERSHIP Weekend’s findings, the military personnel in  detention are currently being interrogated by a military investigation panel.

This is coming amid the call by President Muhamamadu Buhari for “a comprehensive report” on the incident.

An angry President Buhari had expressed disappointment with the collapsed intelligence in the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, saying, “I am disappointed with the intelligence system. How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?”

President Buhari, who, like most Nigerians, was shocked by both the scale and audacity of the attack queried: “How did the defences at the prison fail to prevent the attack? How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed? Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work?” He had reeled out question after question.

The military authorities came under attack as it was reported that soldiers guarding the facility were withdrawn 24 hours before the attack.

Observers have also alleged internal compromise and called for an investigation.

Our correspondent had learned from an investigation that the security personnel on duty that day did not put up any resistance when the terrorists struck, and that the only bullet shells found in the prison premises were those fired by the invaders – meaning that the military, police, DSS, Civil Defence and armed prison guards did not fight the invaders.

Military sources told LEADERSHIP Weekend that an officer and the soldiers have been held in an underground cell at the special military detention facility in Abuja.

When contacted the assistant director, Army Public Relations, Guards Brigade, Captain Godfrey Abakpa, said the soldiers were not arrested but invited as part of the investigation.

He said federal government had told the guards brigade and other security agencies to launch an investigation to unravel circumstances surrounding the incident.

“There is no arrest. If the investigation has not been concluded, there cannot be an arrest, otherwise how do you get the facts?

“There is no arrest, there is an investigation ongoing and the essence of this is to get the details of what happened before, during and after the attack.

“ If anyone is at the SIB, it is based on the ongoing investigation. It is expected to see the movement of those who are involved, that does not mean they have been arrested.”

It was learnt that amid renewed terrorist activities, including the July 5, 2021 attack on Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, in Abuja, the controller-general, Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Haliru Nababa, is still being denied access to President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the country’s all-important National Security Council briefings, as his agency is yet to be considered a critical component of security architecture.

LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that due to this lack of access, both the controller-general and state controllers who are denied one-on-one meetings with nation’s chief security officers only get actionable intelligence from third parties and in most cases from fourth parties.

The National Security Council (NEC), where the highest level of intelligence is shared, is often presided by the President and attended by the vice president, secretary to the government of the federation, the chief of staff to the president, and the national security adviser (NSA).

Others who attend the meeting are the ministers of interior, police affairs, defense, the attorney-general and minister of justice, chief of defence staff, chief of army staff, chief of naval staff, the chief of air staff, the inspector-general of police, the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), and director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Meanwhile, some aggrieved officers who narrowly escaped death during the recent attack on the Kuje Custodial Centre told our correspondent that aside being poorly equipped, most of the correctional centres nationwide contrast sharply with the standards in advanced countries, thereby making them vulnerable to frequent attacks.

They blamed the almost endless prison attacks on a combination of factors ranging from structural defects and worsened by poor security features to acute shortage of armed personnel and weapons required to guard the facilities.

They said, “The prison walls are high enough but we need to reinforce them. They can be blown up with explosives. The perimeter fencing is not barbed to deter attackers and our worst fear is that  escapees from the various  correctional centres can be sending threat messages to judges, complainants , prosecutors and others  who investigated and prosecuted their cases.”

Another factor attributed to recurrent jailbreaks is the country’s overcrowded correctional centres holding a large number of inmates awaiting trial. The officers pleaded with the leadership of the service, the minister of interior and the federal government to expedite action and ensure quick completion of work on the ongoing construction of modern-day centres nationwide. They stressed that if nothing was done, their trainings would remain efforts in futility.

“If we have the resources, there should be at least 15 to 20 armed warders on the ground at any point in time. At times, we have only four available. It is the same armed squad who guard the prisons that lead inmates to courts. We also need more arms and ammunition as well as other equipment. It’s sad that if we need ten items for instance, and three is supplied, that is grossly insufficient.”

Another official confided in our correspondent that arms and ammunition were last supplied to the NCoS sometime in 2019 but were insufficient.

“The supply should be consistent. We don’t have enough arms and ammunition to repel attacks. When we exhaust the ammunition during an attack, what can we do? We are not only short of arms and ammunition but grossly lack basic modern security apparatuses such as closed circuit television (CCTV).

“Some correctional centres have CCTVs but most of them are concentrated inside and cannot capture what is going on outside. They should be mounted on the perimeters to monitor external attacks.

“We have security towers but what is the essence of the towers when arms and ammunition are not sufficient to engage attackers? We also need a drone to carry out night patrol. The issue of awaiting trial inmates should also be looked into. Judiciary at both federal and state governments are involved and should look into it.”

 

Lawyers, Security Experts React

Security experts are, however, of the view that not having direct access to threat assessments, intelligence briefings, real time information about planned attacks and being totally out of the loop remains a national security risk both for the NCoS and to Nigerians at large.

According to them, security thrives on timely and actionable intelligence and crimes such as jailbreaks, of the magnitude of the recent Kuje custodial Centre attack, certainly takes time to plan.

They say if the head of such a sensitive agency relies only on third party information, then, the nation is in more trouble. These attackers live among the people, congregate, share information, procure logistics and embark on suspicious movements and activities. If intelligence is timely made available to security operatives, then such situations can be controlled with less damage.

A senior advocate, Mr Abdul Bakor who described the revelation as worrisome, said some of the security challenges such as separatist conflicts, banditry, kidnappings and insurgency from all fronts may have been as a result of activities of criminals who escaped from  the prisons.

Bakor, who described as appalling the deplorable state of Nigeria’s correctional facilities, said the controller general of NCos and all state controllers should immediately be drafted in both federal and states security councils if Nigeria must be effectively secured.

He said, “I am surprised because most crimes for which inmates are remanded are state offences. These personalities should be accommodated. They need to have the chance to pour out their minds to Mr. President and to governors rather than do so through third parties.

‘I am confident that if this outfit receives forewarning signals of an impending attack, they will not be caught up in jailbreaks.”

A constitutional lawyer, Barrister Odey Ajibok, agreed with Bakor. He said until the NCoS boss and his controllers in states are carried along during important security briefings, the nation will continue to experience jailbreaks.

He likened the scenario to someone fighting multiple wars without changing tactics.

“I want to believe that even the Prisons boss was not informed about the deployment of soldiers less than 12 hours to the Kuje attack, yet all we hear is that there was an intelligence report. He has to be an automatic part of NSC.

He said, “I really commend the government for being resolute and I equally salute the courage of our security agencies at a time like this. Truth is, this is a trying time for all of us.”

He appealed to the federal government to separate high profile criminals from petty criminals in order to reduce risks, as keeping hardened criminals and petty criminals put the correctional facilities at risk of attacks.

He said such practice has continued to defeat the aim of the centres as released inmates have a high chance of committing bigger crimes.

 

Police Rearrest Kuje Jail Break Escapee in Katsina

The Katsina State Police Command has said that its detectives have rearrested one of the escaped Inmates from the Kuje Prison, Abuja,  Kamala Lawal Abubakar, of Danmusa Local Government (LGA) of Katsina State.

Parading the suspect alongside other criminals at the state police headquarters, the spokesman, SP Gambo Isah, said the escaped inmate was apprehended while a team of policemen was carrying out raids on criminal hideouts at Danmusa LGA.

He explained, “At about 1800hrs, based on credible information, DPO Danmusa and team carried out raids at suspected criminal hideouts in Danmusa LGA and succeeded in arresting one Kamala Lawal Abubakar, aged 33yrs, of Unguwar Sale Quarters, Danmusa LGA, a suspected fugitive from Kuje prison, Abuja. In the course of the investigation, the suspect confessed to having escaped from Kuje Prison, Abuja, during the recent Kuje jailbreak.

“Some quantity of dried leaves suspected to be Indian hemp was also recovered in his possession during a police search. The suspect will be handed over to Nigerian Correctional Service, for further necessary action”

Similarly, the command also arrested a suspected gang leader of notorious terrorists and kidnappers, Bello Sale Jino, ‘M’, aged 25yrs, of Modoji village, in a hideout at Bakuru village, Katsina.

According to the spokesman, in the course of the investigation, the suspect confessed to being a leader of the kidnap for ransom gang and was in the village based on the invitation given to him by one Mustapha Badamasi, who asked him to come the village and search for any rich man in the village that has plenty of cows.

He said, “The suspect confessed to have kidnapped many people within Katsina metropolitan city and collected ransom ranging from N80,000 to N200,000.”

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