By Rahman Onike
The recent invasion of the Koto-Kariffi Federal Medium Security Prison in Kogi state by unidentified armed men was the second of such occurrence in the last two years and at the end about one hundred and forty inmates were set free. The last week Sunday Kogi jail brake was carefully planned and executed with impunity. The incidence has really caused serious embarrassment to the nation, while there are signs of agony in the voices of the people of the community where the prison is situated. From all indications, there are reasonable grounds to link the onslaught to powerful external forces either within or outside the state. Whatever the motive of the breakers, the action was ill – motivated and condemnable.
In 2012, similar occurrence was recorded in the same prison when about two hundred awaiting trial inmates were set free by some unidentified persons. Such cases are becoming rampart under the present democratic order. The report from the Authorities of Kogi state prison services has indicated that fifteen out of one hundred and forty four escapees have been re-arrested. It was learnt the attackers operated for over three hours unchallenged by the police, prison guards or any other intelligent service. By implication, the security personnel attached to the prison could be suspected of compromises or probably they are ill-equipped to resist the invasion of the prison by the armed men.
When the jail break first occurred two year ago, public need to know what the prison Authorities found through investigation as the immediate and remote causes of the security breach. Who were actually found to be culpable when investigation was conducted? Another important issue for consideration is the psychology of the inmates of the prison. In my view, the way the inmates escaped to the thin air shows that an average Nigerian prisoner always looks for an escape route probably due to poor condition of the prisons in Nigeria.
Again, the remaining one hundred and twenty nine inmates that are still at large are potential threats to residents of the Community where the prison is located. The outcry of the people of the Community has also indicated that except the escaped prisoners are found and re – arrested, the peace currently enjoyed by the various Communities in the Area will be in jeopardy. Given the possible security implications of the jail break, it is high time full investigation be conducted to really identify the motive and the sponsors of the onslaught with the view to prevent future re – occurrence of the malady.
The critical question, however, must be who in fact are breaking the prisons. The above notwithstanding, the residents need to be more vigilant to prevent future re – occurrence. Strikingly, the civil society owes the nation the responsibility of reporting any strange movement as part of measures to rid the society of the criminals who frequently mastermind the jail break. The reality is that such dangerous assignment cannot be undertaken by a single person rather it ought to have involved conspiracy among several persons. It is difficult to completely exonerate the prison officials of being accomplices in the conspiracy leading to the attack on the prison.
Besides, the Authorities of the Nigerian prisons need training and re – orientation on emotional intelligence and effective strategies to manage the psychology of the inmates. The use of coercion in handling the inmates by the prison officials could a times make the prisoners to become fallible in a situation there is an attack on the prison. Apart from Kogi State experience, jail break and riots by the inmates seem to have become common phenomena in Nigeria.
This justifies the call for Nigerian prison reform. In the developed countries of the world, prison service is a corrective and rehabilitative Institution. Whereas the operation of the Nigeria prison service are both brutish and burdensome. Without necessary reform, there may not be an end to protests and other forms of barbarism among the inmates of the Nigerian prisons.
Radical reforms in the personnel quality, adequate budgetary provision for the inmates and enabling environment for genuine rehabilitation should form the bedrock of the reform process.
I am not under the illusion that attack on prison could be traced to boko haram. However, it is difficult to dismiss the rationale behind the insinuations which form the basis of linking the attack to the insurgents. There should be search light pointed in the direction, given the unconfirmed report that some of the inmates are members of boko haram. Except proper investigation is carried out, a lot of people will continue to ask questions.
Rahaman Onike wrote in from Lokoja, Kogi state.