The gang attack on Ado-Ekiti Prisons for two hours by gunmen reportedly numbering 60, who stormed the prison premises in Hilux trucks, brandishing dangerous weapons, including AK47 and charms, killing one warder and 20 sniffer dogs and setting 320 out of the 446 inmates free last Monday night is condemnable indeed.
The Federal Government has instituted a panel of inquiry to probe the attack on the prison. Coming as the third incident after two external attacks on Koton-Karfe prison in two years – 2012 and November 2, 2014 – and the second one in 30 days – the nation expects this probe to put a stop to attacks on its prisons.
Ordinarily, the institution of a panel of inquiry to probe the unfortunate incident should be cheery news as it should investigate the remote and immediate causes of the attack, fish out the offenders and their masterminds, set in motion a machinery for bringing them to justice, serve as a deterrent to others and prevent future occurrences.
But do the antecedents of the Nigeria Prison Service and the Federal Government’s penchant for not implementing the outcome of panels of inquiry give any hope for achieving the above-stated purposes? Can the Federal Government muster the political will to fulfill the people’s expectations, especially given the unfortunate political theories, accusations and counter accusations being weaved around the incident by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress? Will the government pit its tent on the side of justice and bring offenders to justice no mater whose ox is gored in the interest of the nation? Will the Ado Ekiti Prison Probe be any different from previous probes whose reports end up in the shelves?
This is the first time that the Federal Government will take the bull by the horns in the three attacks on prisons in two years. Even when the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, confirmed during the second external attack on the Koton-Karfe that prisons officials “connived with external forces to take a sizeable number of AK47 into the prison,” his solution was one pronged: ridding the prison of weapons and telephones. Bringing the external aggressors or accomplices to book was not captured in his strategy for dealing with the situation.
But Moro got his groove back this time by setting up “a multi-sectional investigative panel” to “find out the culpability or otherwise of those suspected to be involved”.
No doubt, the Ado-Ekiti Prison attackers were emboldened by the failure of the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Prisons Service to act decisively to address the Koton-Karfe scenario. By simple rule of logic, recurrence is inevitable not only in Ado-Ekiti but also in other prisons across the country if the perpetrators of the Ekiti prison invasion are not brought to justice.
The Nigeria Prisons Service and its supervising Ministry, the Ministry of Interior, are not known for learning from constructive criticisms and appraisals. The Prisons Service has recurrently turned the deaf ear to the annual damning reports from the Amnesty International and civil society groups on its lackluster approach to the appalling conditions of prisons and prisoners for decades. Will the NPS not carry the same attitude to the panel report? Or will it turn over a new leaf this time?
Comrade Moro said while addressing the press on the Ado-Ekiti Prison attack, “What these attacks have brought to the fore is that there is need for reinforced perimeter fencing in our prisons which is being done now at Koton-Karfe, Kogi State, in view of the recent attacks and similarly because of the ease with which both prisons have been attacked and broken into, the need to reinforce our concrete fencing of the prison becomes an imperative need.”
While it is necessary to do all this to prevent subsequent jailbreaks and other challenges, Moro’s proposal will fly in the face of dynamites (bomb) and AK47 as witnessed during the Ado-Ekiti December 1 attack.
No doubt, cracking down on criminals while they are yet planning their onslaughts is the best option; and this is the job of intelligence. There is also a need to fortify the prisons across the country to respond to external attack. While the prisons and the police must build and reinforce their intelligence to respond to the raging crime, Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, should be provided in the prison premises. The Panel of Inquiry must explore all the theories and leads associated with the Ado-Ekiti Prison attack, no matter how ridiculous. There is a need to go beyond investigating the suspects. The dragnet of justice must catch the masterminds and sponsors of the assailants, no matter how highly placed and bring them to justice. The attack of the prison by 60-man gang and the gale of violence that has engulfed Ekiti State before and after the governorship elections suggest that there was more to the attack than a group angling to free a common or unknown criminal. An attempt to get to the roots of the December 1 Ado-Ekiti Prisons attack by “external forces” is an effort toward keeping our prisons and nation safe.