As at Monday, April 5, 2021, over 1,800 inmates of a prison in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria have escaped after a prison break orchestrated by heavily armed men who attacked the facility in the early hours of the morning, prison authorities said on Monday.
The attackers used explosives to make their way into the Owerri prison in the state of Imo before starting a gun battle with prison guards, the national corrections authority announced in a statement.
Other government buildings in the town of Owerri were also simultaneously attacked during the prison break operation.
Though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Owerri is part of a region which is notorious for being home to a number of separatist organizations, including the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB).
The Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force, Mohammed Adamu, blamed one of its paramilitary wings , the Eastern Security Network (ESN), for the prison break.
THE PRISON BREAK CONSIDERED A TERRORIST ATTACK
The President of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari described the attack, in a statement issued from Aso Rock, as “an act of terrorism” and beckoned security forces to produce the assailants and return the escapees to custody.
Preceding the attacks in Owerri, were attacks on four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles in southeastern Nigeria which were reported to have killed at least a dozen security officers.
The spokesperson of the Correctional facility where the prison break occurred, Francis Enobore, released a statement regarding the attack, in which he stated that the attack was carried out by “unknown gunmen”.
According to Mr. Enobore:
The Owerri Custodial Centre in Imo State has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody.
The attackers who stormed the facility at about 0215hrs on Monday 5th April, 2021, gained entrance into the yard by using explosives to blast the administrative block.
They were said to have arrived the center in their large number in several Hilux pick-up vans and Sienna Buses armed with sophisticated weapons and immediately engaged the security personnel on duty in a fierce gun battle.
They eventually detonated the explosive to gain entrance.
The Acting Controller-General of Corrections, John Mrabure has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the incident and in collaboration with other security organizations, commenced a search and recover operations to recapture the fleeing inmates.
While appealing to the good citizens of Imo State and indeed Nigerians to volunteer useful intelligence that will facilitate the recovery effort, the Ag. Controller-General wishes to assure that the security of custodial centers in the country remains sacrosanct.
He equally directed all officers attached to custodial facilities to remain vigilant at this trying moment in our history.
As at the last count, 6 inmates have so far voluntarily returned to the facility while 35 inmates refused to escape from custody during the attack.
Further information as regards the identity of the attackers and plans to recover the escaped prisoners in order to re-commit them to the Correctional facility, is yet to be released. It is however hoped that swift action is taken towards the immediate protection of the communities surrounding the locations of the attacks, as well as enhanced security measures generally put in place within and around Owerri.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.