Nigeria’s federal government Saturday asked the 575 inmates that escaped from the Abolongo Medium Security Custodial Centre in Oyo State to return to the centre voluntarily or face full weight of the law.
Gunmen had on Friday night attacked the Abolongo Correctional Centre in Oyo town and freed the inmates.
The federal government has however disclosed that of the 837 awaiting trial inmates that fled the centre, 262 had been recaptured while 575 were still at large, according to separate statements issued Saturday by the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola and the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Correctional Service, Oyo State Command, Olanrewaju Anjorin.
In a statement by its media aide, Sola Fasure on Saturday, Aregbesola confirmed the attack on the custodial centre by a large number of heavily-armed gunmen at about 10.30 pm on Friday.
He disclosed that security agencies “are on the trail of the escaped inmates, while a joint security services manhunt has been launched immediately for the apprehension of the assailants.”
The minister disclosed that the joint security services manhunt had culminated in the capture of some of the inmates while others returned voluntarily.
However, the minister urged those who are on the run to turn themselves in, warning that an escape from lawful custody “is a serious offense, threatening to bring the full weight of the law on them when arrested.”
He said: “Armed squad unit members of the Nigerian Correctional Service and other security agencies on guard at the facility engaged the attackers in a gun duel that lasted for 20 minutes before they were overpowered.
“The attackers subsequently used grenades and other explosives to gain access into the awaiting trial section of the facility and set free many of the awaiting trial inmates. Other sections of the facilities were left untouched.”
He assured members of the public to go about their normal businesses as the situation is under control.
The minister also urged them to report any suspicious movement or any sign of the escaped inmates and the gunmen to the nearest security post around them.
Providing details of the attack yesterday, the Nigeria Correctional Service, Oyo State Command, said 837 awaiting trial inmates escaped from the correctional centre when suspected gunmen attacked the facility.
In its statement, the command said all the 837 awaiting trial inmates were freed by the attackers, pointing out that the cell housing the convicts and the inmates were not vandalised.
He said 262 escaped inmates “have been recaptured, while 575 were still at large. The invaders arrived the centre heavily armed with sophisticated weapons and after a fierce encounter with the officers on guard, they gained entrance into the yard, using dynamite to blast the wall.
“All the awaiting trial detainees were forced out of custody, the cells housing the convicts and the female inmates were not vandalised. Meanwhile, a total of 262 of the escapees have been recaptured leaving 575 still at large.
“Following the directives of the Controller-General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, the State Controller, Noel Ailewon, has commenced the process of search and recapture after visiting the scene of the incident,” Anjorin said.
He said the state controller had promised the public that no effort “will be spared to recapture the fleeing inmates. The controller-general has solicited for credible intelligence to assist the security agencies in tracking down the fleeing inmates.”
He said the Oyo Custodial Centre was established in 2007 with a capacity of 160 inmates, but had a total population of 907 at the time of attack.
Of this number, according to the command, awaiting trial persons were 837 representing 92 per cent, while the convicts were 64.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan