The Federal Government has asked the International Criminal Police Organisation to be on the alert and lookout for the inmates who escaped in the recent jailbreaks in the country, including the most recent in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
It added that the Nigerian Immigration Service had also been issued an alert, noting that the data of the inmates were being compiled and would be sent to the relevant organisations in batches so as not to delay the manhunt.
A senior official with the National Correctional Service on Saturday told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity that the number of “dangerous” inmates on the loose officially was 3,471, including those who escaped in Owerri.
The source noted that the inmates included hardened criminals, kidnappers, armed robbers and condemned criminals awaiting execution. “Suffice it to say that the bulk of those who fled Owerri correctional centre are hardened criminals,” the source added.
No fewer than 1,844 inmates escaped from the Owerri Custodial Centre on Monday when unidentified gunmen broke into the facility with the aid of explosives. The gunmen also attacked the state police headquarters, where they freed about 600 suspects in custody. The attackers torched the facilities and also vehicles on both premises.
Despite the persuasion by the Federal Government and its assurance that they would be given amnesty from fresh prosecution if they returned to the facility, the NCoS said on its website on Wednesday that it had a total of 84 inmates back in custody. It said the figure included those who did not flee during the jailbreak, those recaptured, those who voluntarily returned and those brought back by their relations, traditional rulers and religious leaders.
Further investigations by Sunday PUNCH showed that about 1,780 inmates were on the loose, while only 35 inmates didn’t escape during the attack.
On Friday, NCoS authorities published on its Twitter handle the names and pictures of 36 of the fleeing inmates.
Meanwhile, following the escapees’ refusal to return to the custodial centre, the NCoS said it was compiling the names and pictures of the fleeing inmates for dispatch to the NIS to prevent them from leaving the country and INTERPOL to track those who might have fled.
The NCoS spokesperson, Francis Enobore, a Controller of Corrections, said the service would seek the assistance of the two agencies in arresting the escaped inmates.
Disclosing this to Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, Enobore said, “We are putting the list together, we would definitely seek INTERPOL and NIS’ assistance.”
Asked how soon they planned to do it, Enobore stated, “Like the ones we are processing now, we want everything to be comprehensive so that we send them at the same time. We also realise that waiting for the list to be comprehensive before sending may also slow down the manhunt, so these batches that are coming up would be sent for local searches at motor parks and other places but everything would be uploaded to the (INTERPOL) platform.”
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that the 3,471 inmates, who are now part of society, escaped from three custodial centres. Some of them are said to be serving jail terms for various crimes, including murder, armed robbery and kidnapping while hundreds are facing trial for different crimes.