The Nigerian Correctional Service has said it will publish the names and pictures of over 1,500 inmates who escaped from the custodial facilities in Benin and Oko, Edo State, and in Okitipupa, Ondo State, on Monday and Thursday, respectively.
The NCoS spokesman, DCC, Austin Njoku, said the service was equally mobilising various security and intelligence resources to recapture the fleeing inmates.
While 1,993 inmates broke out of the two custodial centres in Edo State, 58 reportedly escaped from the Ondo correctional facility.
The inmates who included convicts serving time for various crimes and condemned persons on death row were released by suspected hoodlums who took advantage of the #EndSARS protests.
The Edo State custodial centres had come under attack from the suspected hoodlums who freed the inmates and also looted the armoury of a nearby police station carting away five rifles.
The police said 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the incident while the stolen rifles had been recovered.
A similar attack targeted at the Ikoyi correctional on Thursday failed as security operatives quickly mobilised to the facility and foiled the attempted jailbreak.
Giving an update on the incidents on Friday, Njoku urged Nigerians to provide information on the fugitives who he described as dangerous elements.
He stated, “We are mobilising the people and the press for information because to inject the number of such people into the society is a problem. Imagine over 1,000 criminals injected into society?
“We are mobilising the intelligence agencies, the police and the DSS (Department of State Services). We are publishing their names and pictures very soon.”
Njoku added that he did not have the number of inmates already rearrested.
Meanwhile, 25 inmates who escaped from Oko and Sapele Road Correctional Centre when hoodlums broke into the facilities have voluntarily returned to the centres and surrendered themselves to the authorities.
It brings to 207 the number of prisoners who have been recaptured, returned or secured.
One of the inmates, who gave his name as Alex Ose, 40, a taxi driver, said that he had been awaiting trial since 2014 when he was arrested for armed robbery in Benin, Edo State capital.
Ose, who is from Esan, Edo State and a father of four, said he decided to heed the call of the State Governor Godwin Obaseki and surrender himself because he was innocent of the charges against him and was “supremely” sure that he would be vindicated by the court.
He, however, noted that the escape provided him with a perfect opportunity to be home with his wife and children, adding that he ran in the ensuing melee when the protesters stormed the correctional centre and ordered them to escape.
He said, “I am innocent of the allegations against me. I was framed up. I am appealing to Governor Obaseki to look into my case. I had every opportunity to run away but chose to surrender myself because I am not guilty. The governor should please look seriously into my case. I am innocent.”
A source at the Sapele Road Correctional Centre who would not want his name in print said that one of the escaped prisoners was shot on the leg and caught on Wednesday when he was sighted near the correctional centre but took to his heels when he was ordered to surrender himself to the authorities.
The source disclosed that two out of the 25 inmates who returned were from Oko Medium Correctional Centre along Airport Road, Benin, assuring that they would be returned to Oko when the situation returned to normal.
According to him, the DSS, the police and officials of the NCS will soon commence a massive manhunt for the runaway inmates once Obaseki’s one-week grace for them to return expires.
He said those who escaped from lawful prison custody risked being sentenced for extra seven years if caught while those who willingly surrendered themselves would be shown mercy as promised by the governor.
The NCoS officer said, “We have a way of arresting runaway prisoners. We will swing into action once the protest calms down. The earlier they return on their own, the better for them.
“Those who are rearrested will be retried and sentenced to extra seven years if convicted. So, it is in their own interest to return as the governor has given them an extra one week of grace to return.”