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Jailbreak Escalates in Nigeria

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The incidence of jailbreak in States across Nigeria in recent times has become a cause for concern. The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, speaking on the issue at a press briefing in November, stated that the government was on the trail of 3,906 fleeing inmates. The Senate at its plenary on Tuesday, 30th November 2021, directed its Committee on Interior to probe the causes of the frequent jailbreak in the country. It further resolved to summon the Minister of Interior, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, to ascertain the state of correctional facilities nationwide, identify challenges and proffer measures to forestall recurrence.

The most recent in the trail of jailbreak occurred in November 2021 at the Jos Medium Security Correctional Centre, where 262 inmates were reported to have escaped and ten persons killed. In October, 58 inmates escaped from a correctional facility in Okitipupa in Ondo State.  Also, the Abolongo Custodial Centre in Oyo State was attacked in the same month and 837 inmates escaped. In September, it was the Kabba Correctional Centre in Kogi State, where about 240 inmates were said to have escaped. Earlier on in April, more than 1,800 inmates were reported to have escaped from the Nigeria Correctional Service Custodial Centre, Owerri in Imo State. Although some of the inmates who escaped in the several jailbreak returned and some others were re-arrested, the whereabouts of many others are still unknown.

What remains unclear are the causes of these jailbreak. Whether they are perpetrated by non-state actors or occur as a result of infrastructural degradation at the correctional centres, it brings the issue of insecurity to the fore. Residents of the communities where these facilities are located, are put into immediate danger and the larger society is at risk of attacks by fleeing inmates. The situation also calls for thorough examination of the state of infrastructure and living conditions within correctional centres across Nigeria. Some of these facilities are filled beyond capacity, mostly with illegally detained persons. Apart from inmates who have been lawfully convicted and are serving sentences, there are several occupants who are awaiting trial and some others against whom no prima facie case has been established. This situation constitutes gross human rights violation of the individuals in question, and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Correctional facilities are an important component of the criminal justice system and are meant to foster rehabilitation, beyond retribution.