The Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, has admonished Squadron Commanders to defend custodial facilities under their watch with maximum force, just as he declared all custodial centres in Nigeria as ‘Red Zones’.
Aregbesola gave the instruction while addressing Squadron Commanders of the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCoS) in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister’s directive followed the attack on the Owerri Custodial Centre where over 1,884 inmates escaped from custody on April 5.
NAN also reports that there were also attempted jailbreaks at the Kano and Bauchi correctional centres.
The minister said custodial facilities were symbols of the authority of Nigeria, adding that they were sacred and invaluable formations.
He, therefore, instructed the personnel to guard and defend the facilities with their lives, saying that the safety of custodial centres are in the hands of the service.
According to Aregbesola, these incessant attacks on facilities are no longer happenstances, but coordinated attacks.
“I declare, henceforth, all our custodial centres red zones. You (armed personnel) have no excuse at all to allow our facilities to be attacked, either within or from outside.
“You are empowered to use any means necessary to defend the custodial centres.
“You must use maximum force to hold your ground and prevent the violation of our custodial facilities and the people within,” he warned.
The minister, however, maintained that the instruction to use minimal force was no longer tenable in the present situation.
“The weapons you carry must be deployed legally to defend the custodial centres.
“Anyone who attempts to violate the centres must be made to live to regret it. By the time you make it a death and life matter, that would be the last time anyone would attempt to attack the centres,” he said.
Aregbesola charged the personnel to be vigilant, stressing that most of the attacks on custodial centres were carried out with supports from some officers of the NCoS.
“It will be difficult or even impossible for a prison to be attacked without the cooperation of officers within,” he added.
Aregbesola disclosed that investigation is ongoing into the attack on the custodial centre in Owerri, where close to 2,000 inmates were released by hoodlums.
“We will hold the personnel absolutely responsible for any attack on our custodial facilities, going forward,” he added.
The minister commended the NCoS officials in Bauchi and Kano for thwarting attempted jailbreaks at their facilities and directed the service to issue letters of commendation to them.
He stressed the significance of custodial centres as the foundation on which societal justice is built, adding that grave and incalculable harm would be done to society if this foundation slipped.
“The entire edifice will come crashing down, with dire consequences for all. We are already seeing some of these.
“Some of the escaped inmates from Edo have been arrested for committing murder and other crimes. One, in particular, went after those who provided the witness for his conviction,” he said.
Earlier, the acting Controller General, NCoS, Mr John Mrabure, had appreciated the minister for his support in attending to issues of the service.
Mrabure said that present realities on ground had occasioned the meeting, adding that jailbreaks and attacks on NCoS facilities are becoming alarming.
“Hence, the need to interact with the minister and the service squadrons on the way forward and on how to curb future occurrences,” he said. (NAN)