Kogi jailbreak: Failure of state security
Information from prison authorities that 114 inmates, out of the 240 who escaped from the Kabba Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kogi State have been rearrested is meant to reassure citizens; but it is not exactly comforting for an incident that was manifestly tragic and inconceivable in the first place. The attack on Kabba Prison and the consequent forced release of prisoners and those standing trial, signpost a country tilting dangerously on the edge. It manifests Federal Government’s consistent failure to keep citizens safe and secured. Most harrowing is that hoodlums, without resistance from security agencies, can freely attack highly restricted territories to set-free hardened inmates, further escalating tension in the land.
Typical of the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern states, the reign of terror and anarchy are gaining territories nationwide. The larger malaise has lately assumed a more horrifying dimension that obscures the presence of state authority and governance across the board. President Muhammadu Buhari and all government officials should be concerned that criminals are gradually taking over the reign of government from them.
In a midnight raid on the Medium Security Custodial Centre (MSCC) in Kabba, Kogi State, unknown gunmen brazenly attacked a military checkpoint, killed a soldier and a policeman, before proceeding to the prison to free at least 240 inmates. The Federal Government enlisted the support of the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to track the gunmen and fleeing prisoners on the international borderline. Kogi Correctional Service lately confirmed the recapture of 114 inmates, most of who returned on free volition! But the attackers are still safely at large.
The Kogi State government’s revelation, however, struck a raw nerve in its alarm. Kogi’s Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, in his postmortem analysis blamed political saboteurs and terrorists for the security breach at the prison that has some high profile criminals including Boko Haram members. He confirmed that the government got an intelligence report and related the same to the agencies that literally failed to take action – either in negligence of duty or as accomplices to the crime itself. Either way, it showed that there is more to the dastardly attacks on the Nigerian State than meet the eye. Fanwo’s allegation deserves full investigation and action.
Sadly, Nigeria has recorded a number of similar jailbreaks prompting security agencies to look elsewhere but returned with no lead on the perpetrators. A few months ago, gunmen attacked the Nigerian Correctional Service and the police headquarters in Imo State, freeing 1,844 inmates, after which the hoodlums set the facilities ablaze. The gunmen also razed the Imo State Police Command headquarters and burnt about 50 vehicles parked at the premises.
A similar attack was carried out at the correctional centre in Ubiaja, Edo State; however, the jailbreak was foiled by officers at the facility. The Nigeria Police, seemingly hapless, have blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN) for the assaults; both of whom had told the Police to look elsewhere, specifically at armed Fulani herdsmen allegedly bent on Fulanisation agenda from the north to the south, this time, through the Eastern flank. Give or take, no fewer than 4,000 criminals have escaped through prison breaks since 2009, with more than half recorded in the last one year alone.
The same pattern of onslaught against integrity of the Nigerian State suggests the same group may be at work and the government should know the perpetrators. In a sane clime, one stitch saves nine others. Yet, the Kabba incident is the fourth in recent time. Did the government uncover perpetrators of the previous incidents, particularly the most noisome Owerri jail break in which IPOB members were fingered? What exactly is responsible for widespread negligence and tardiness, if not to aid criminal infiltrators? Who is in charge of the country’s affairs? The government or some criminal gangs that are so emboldened to even attack the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and no one has been apprehended to date? These are not the stuff of a governed state.
Certainly, those behind the jailbreaks and other atrocities don’t mean well for Nigeria. Unleashing hardened criminals on the society readily discredits authority, creates anarchy and further destabilises the country.
It is the turn of prison facilities and security agencies’ formations today; the next targets may be more tragic. At this time, governments at all levels and the political class should be more afraid of their own laxity, if not failure. The primary responsibility of any government is security of lives, property and welfare of the people. If the Buhari-administration has capacity or courage to dare criminals, it has failed to showcase it. Are the state governors also complicit, especially in the apparent plot to run over the country by destablising regions for political and sectarian interest? Are these governors so blinded by political affiliations and ambitions that they have lost the sense of propriety and duty to defend their own people? Who are those sabotaging the collective interest of Nigeria, and for what purpose? These questions begging for answers typify a failed state. But a non-complicit and serious regional governance structure should not be complacent.
Fundamentally, it is most important for the entrusted public office-holders to know that events in the last few months are not just local grievances, but a crackdown metaphor. So, mollycoddling daylight terrorism and regional siege is not wisdom but folly capable of engulfing all. The urgent remedy is to face up, push back on aggressors and their sponsors on all fronts and build a credible firewall around states and the region. At perilous times like this, finding and bringing the criminals to justice openly is a very important step that will show government’s seriousness to tackle a menace and deter the criminals whoever they are. Nigerians are not impressed by government’s eagerness to point accusing fingers to faceless and seemingly invincible vandals.