On the night of Tuesday, July 5th, 2022, a large group of gunmen attacked the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Kuje prison is less than 50 kilometres away from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa where President Buhari sleeps.
Kuje prison is renowned for playing host to high-profile politicians and dangerous criminals like Boko Haram members. Former governors, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, are the current infamous occupants of the facility. The disgraced deputy commissioner of police, Abba Kyari, was also one of the prominent guests of the facility when the attack took place.
Eyewitnesses have reported that the attackers used three bombs to gain control of the facility’s entry and exit points. The operation lasted for nearly three hours and sent many residents of Kuje into panic mode. Some of the residents posted recorded videos of themselves hiding while sporadic gunshots could be heard in the background.
Kuje prison attack in numbers
By the time Tuesday night’s attack was over, 879 inmates had escaped from Kuje prison. Security agencies have already recaptured dozens of them, but there are 443 escapees still at large.
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) said in a statement on Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 that one security officer and four inmates died during the attack. 16 inmates and three security officers also sustained injuries.
Kyari, Nyame, Dariye and other high-profile inmates at the facility didn’t escape and are in custody.
None of the attackers was captured or killed.
Who’s responsible for the attack?
Investigations have commenced into the perpetrators of the attack, but authorities suspect they’re Boko Haram terrorists. The terror group is already known to be operating in Niger State which shares borders with Abuja. Previously, the terrorists killed over 40 soldiers and civilians in Shiroro, Niger State on June 29th, 2022.
It’s not been fully established yet that the jihadist group is responsible for Tuesday night’s attack, but the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, confirmed that all Boko Haram inmates in custody have escaped.
A trend of prison breaks
In November 2021, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, announced that 3,906 inmates who escaped from prison over the course of one year were still roaming free. Attacks on prisons in Nigeria increased after nearly 2,000 inmates were forcefully released from two Medium Security Correctional Centres in Edo State in October 2020. Similar attacks have happened in Imo, Oyo, Plateau and Kogi with hundreds of inmates breaking out and staying out of reach.
Authorities have failed to draw a clear pattern that links the attacks across many regions in the country.
What’s the government doing about this?
During a retreat in Sokoto State on June 26th, 2022, Aregbesola blamed the series of prison breaks on how the facilities were set up. He said the system was designed to protect the facilities from the inside and not from the outside. The idea was that no one would be foolish enough to attack facilities that are typically built near security outfits. But times have changed.
At the retreat, Aregbesola went ahead to brag that the security oversight had been fixed. He said, “I am happy that we came out to be on top of our game.” But the daring attack on Kuje prison proves the government still needs to do a lot more to prevent these attacks.