Downpour/jailbreak: FG considers relocating Suleja correctional facility, confirms number of escaped inmates 


Minister of Interior Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has hinted that the federal government may have to relocate the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Suleja, Niger state.

He also said the government had ordered a comprehensive manhunt for the 109 fleeing inmates who escaped from the facility following a heavy downpour  Wednesday night which damaged the  facility. 

The minister said this when he visited the facility Thursday, and urged those inmates still on the run to voluntarily return before government releases all their biometrics to the public. 

The visit was to obtain firsthand information on the incident and know measures being taken to arrest the fleeing inmates and bring them back to the centre.

 Our correspondent gathered that officials of the ministry including the director of joint services, Peter Egbodo, accompanied the minister, while top NCoS officials were on hand to receive the minister and his team.

Speaking during the visit, the minister said all security agencies had been put on red alert to re-arrest the fleeing inmates and ensure their immediate return to the facility. 

Blueprint learnt that 118 inmates escaped from the facility with only 10 of them apprehended by security agencies.  

While admitting there were some gaps in reporting line at the custodial centre, the minister said the situation could have been avoided if the right information was promptly passed to the appropriate channel.

He said: “There was a breach on the outer wall of this facility and some of the inmates escaped.  We were able to recapture 10 out of the 119 that escaped so now 109 are on the run.

“We have ordered a manhunt. The security agencies are presently going after them and we will do everything humanly possible to make sure that everyone is brought back here.” 

While describing the escape of the inmates as a national emergency and a sober moment, he said:  “things like this can lead to setbacks. So, I sincerely think we must all focus our energy to solve this problem as soon as we can.”

 Tunji-Ojo also said the federal government would further probe the  remote and immediate cause of the collapsed perimeter fence leading to the  inmates’ escape.

 “We must make sure that this does not happen again. This could have been avoided if the right information at the appropriate time had been disseminated with regards to the structure and others.

“But we will get them back, we will secure our correctional facilities and make sure that this doesn’t happen again in Nigeria.

“Obviously the walls are already old and weak, and there are certain responsibilities we must take but we’ll do everything possible to prevent this happening in other facilities,” the minister said.

He also said President Bola Tinubu had  at different times, shown concerns over  the urbanization reaching into the domains of custodial centres and expressed the need to relocate some of them outside the city centres for better security.

 “There are a lot of things that I will not be able to say on camera with regards to the correctional centres, the reporting lines and

 other issues but we will handle those things behind the scene.

“We are not here to make excuses, but to take responsibility because we were elected to do the job and that job will be done. 

“This is a facility built to hold 250 inmates. Before the incident we had 499 inmates here. This gives credence to our concern regarding overcrowding in our correctional centres,” he said.  

…How they escaped – NCoS

Giving a lowdown on how the inmates escaped, spokesman of the Federal Capital Territory FCT Command of the NCoS, Adamu Duza, said it was occasioned by a heavy downpour which wreaked havoc on the facility.

In a statement Thursday in Abuja, he said:  “A heavy downpour that lasted for several hours on the night of Wednesday, 24 April 2024 has wreaked havoc on the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Suleja, Niger state, as well as surrounding buildings, destroying part of the custodial facility, including its perimeter fence, giving way to the escape of a total of 118 inmates of the facility.”

He, however, said the Service had immediately activated its recapturing mechanisms, and in conjunction with sister security agencies, recaptured 10 fleeing inmates and took them into custody, while still in a hot chase to recapture the rest.

Duza said the Service was not unmindful of the fact that many of its facilities were built during the colonial era and that they were old and weak, adding that the Service was making frantic efforts to see that all ageing facilities give way to modern ones.

“This is evidenced in the ongoing construction of six number of 3000-capacity ultra-modern custodial centres in all the geo-political zones in Nigeria as well as the ongoing reconstruction and renovation of existing ones.

“The Service wishes to assure the public that it is on top of the situation and that they should go about their businesses without fear or hindrance.

“The public is further enjoined to look out for the fleeing inmates and report any suspicious movement to the nearest security agency,” said Duza.