At least 1,993 inmates are at large following the attack on two Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) Custodial Centres in Edo State, the Federal Government has said.
Mr Mohammed Manga, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Interior, gave the figure in a statement on Tuesday.
He explained that at the last count, 1,993 inmates escaped from the correctional facilities in Benin City and Oko.
According to the government official, the attackers freed the inmates who are in legal custody and looted the centres, including the weapons in their armoury.
“They came in large number, bearing dangerous weapons and attacked the officers on guard duty. They were unmistakable on their mission, which was to force the cells open, free the inmates and carry out other nefarious activities,” he said in the statement.
He added, “This is to assure Nigerians, especially Edo State residents, that in conjunction with other security agencies, we have commenced the tracking and apprehension of all the escaped inmates before they do any harm.
“Anyone who notices any person or persons that might have escaped from the custodial centres should, as a patriotic duty, inform the nearest security agency.”
Manga, however, noted that the situation had been brought under control while security in and around the custodial centres across the country had been beefed up.
He added that the government has commenced an investigation into the jailbreak to determine the full impact of the attack.
Channels Television reported the jailbreak on Monday, coming at a time when #EndSARS protesters are demonstrating in various parts of the country.
The hoodlums who attacked the correctional centres were also said to have set three police stations ablaze in the course of the attack.
“Peaceful protest is legitimate and guaranteed as a fundamental right of citizens, operating as individuals and groups.
“However, attacking a custodial centre is a criminal act which detracts from the advertised objectives of the movement and capable of imputing impure motives to its drivers,” said Manga who condemned the attack.
He described custodial centres as high-security zones which have a primary duty of keeping custody of convicted criminals and awaiting trial suspects.
This, according to the ministry’s spokesman, comes before the reformation of the inmates and is integral to the justice administration system.
He stressed that the integrity of the custodial centres was fundamental to justice and inmates were expected to pay their dues to society, undergo reformation, and be reintegrated into society as changed-for-better persons.
Manga explained that when such a process has been disrupted in any way, the integrity of justice and societal renewal had been subverted, with dire and unimaginable consequences.
He insisted that most of the inmates held at the centres were convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes.
“Their being let loose gravely imperils lives and property. It is an unacceptable and intolerable threat to national and communal security.
“Government’s primary duty is to protect lives and property and keep the people safe. We shall not be shirking in our responsibility and we shall not disappoint the people,” the government official added.
He urged the #ENDSARS protesters to remain peaceful, embrace dialogue, screen their rank and file, as well as flush out those with criminal intents and steer clear of the custodial centres.