Most of the 275 inmates who escaped this weekend from a prison in the central Nigerian city of Minna, after the facility was attacked by gunmen, remain at large.
Although the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and al-Qaeda-linked sect Ansaru have been blamed for several prison breaks in recent years, it is unclear if either group had anything to do with this one.
The daily Nigerian Tribune reports that Dr. Peter Ekpendu, the comptroller-general of the Nigeria Prisons Service, revealed that most of the 275 prisoners who escaped, remained at large as of Sunday morning.
“First and foremost, we have been going round the yard to assess the situation on ground with regard to the incidence of Saturday,” he said during a press conference on Sunday. “You will recall that at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 6, 2014, there was an attack on the prison that led to the escape of 275 inmates of this prison.”
“As of now, I wish to let you know that 54 out of those that escaped have been recaptured while 48 inmates refused to leave the prison bringing the total number of inmates in this prison as at this moment to 102,” also said the official, later adding, “My administration will not spare any officer found culpable in this particular matter. Anybody found culpable must face the full wrath of the law.”
Jailbreaks perpetrated by gunmen are a regular occurrence in Nigeria, and police only capture a fraction of those who break free, reports The Associated Press.
“More than 300 inmates broke out of a prison bombed by gunmen in southwest Ekiti state on Dec. 1; 144 escaped from south-central Kogi state on Nov. 3 when gunmen bombed a prison wall,” mentions the article.
Boko Haram, which is said to be responsible for thousands of violent deaths in Nigeria, has been blamed for those two incidents.
“The vast majority of people held in Nigerian jails have never been charged and are awaiting trial, some of them for many years, even though it is illegal to hold someone for more than 48 hours without bringing charges or presenting them to a magistrate,” notes AP.
According to statistics available on the Nigeria Prisons Service website, only 18,042 of 56,785 inmates have been convicted of a crime.