1,844 inmates freed during attacks by gunmen on facility in Imo --NCoS spokesman

State Police Command burnt

Gunmen in the early hours of Monday attacked the Nigeria Correctional Service, Owerri, the Imo State capital and the state police command headquarters.

Also on Monday, gunmen killed two persons and burnt operational vehicles of the Nigerian Army when they attacked a military base at Umuorji on the Owerri- Onitsha expressway.

The headquarters of the NCoS said 1,844 inmates fled the facility in Owerri during the attack.

Amid increasing spate of attacks on security formations in the South-East, President Muhammadu Buhari described the attacks in Imo State as terrorism and ordered security agencies to apprehend the culprits.

On his part, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, blamed the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Eastern Security Network for the attacks.

But IPOB in its reaction denied involvement in the attack, saying its men were in the bush chasing herdsmen.

An officer of the NCoS, who spoke to Punch on condition of anonymity, said the gunmen arrived at the correctional centre at 1am and operated till 3am.

The hoodlums engaged in a shooting spree and freed no fewer than 1,844 inmates of the correctional service before setting vehicles on fire.

It was gathered that the hoodlums gained access into the centre with the aid of explosives and told the inmates to go home, saying “Jesus has risen, you have no reason to be here again.”

They were said to have sung solidarity songs at the Government House roundabout for about 30 minutes before attacking the facility.

It was gathered that the armed guards of the facility fled as the invaders stormed the facility. An officer said wardens sustained injuries as they fled.

Hoodlums were said to have carted away arms and ammunition and destroyed the closed-circuit television of the centre during the attack.

At the state police command, it was learnt that the gunmen burnt almost all the vehicles parked at the command and freed all the suspects in almost all the cells at the state Criminal Investigation Department.

The PUNCH observed that only the anti-kidnapping department of the state CID was spared by the attackers.

The gunmen, who operated in over 10 vehicles, also attacked soldiers at Umuorji on the Owerri-Onitsha expressway.

A villager told one of our correspondents that the hoodlums burnt the operational vehicles of the soldiers, as the military men fled the area.

Two persons including a soldier died during the attack.

When contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the attacks.

He, however, assured the people of the state that the security agencies were on top of the matter.

Confirming the attack on the NCoS, the spokesman for the Owerri correctional service, James Madugba, in an interview with one of our correspondents, stated that the attackers also destroyed the prison records.

But while the correctional service headquarters said 1,844 inmates fled, Madugba stated 1,800 prisoners were at large.

He stated only six inmates had been rearrested by the command. He said, “About 1,800 inmates are at large as we speak. We have been able to re-arrest six inmates. If you add the number to what we have at the centre, we are talking about 42 inmates in our custody.

“The gunmen destroyed the CCTV of the centre and burnt the prison’s records but all hope is not lost. In the era of the ICT, we will be relying on the ICT to retrieve the information of the fleeing inmates and go after them.”

Uzodimma summons emergency meeting with security chiefs

Following the jailbreak, the state Governor, Hope Uzodimma, convened an emergency meeting with heads of all the security agencies in the state at the Government House, Owerri.

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, who confirmed the security meeting to one of our correspondents in a telephone conversation, said that the government was on top of the situation.

In a statement on Monday, the spokesman for the NCoS, Francis Enobore, said 1,884 inmates fled the prison during the attack.

The statement titled, ‘Owerri custodial centre attacked by unknown gunmen,’ stated, “The Owerri Custodial Centre in Imo State has been attacked by unknown gunmen and forcefully released a total of 1,844 inmates in custody.”

He explained that six inmates had so far voluntarily returned to the facility while 35 inmates refused to escape from custody during the attack.

“While appealing to the good citizens of Imo State and indeed Nigerians to volunteer useful intelligence that will facilitate the recovery effort, the acting Controller-General wishes to assure that the security of custodial centres in the country remains sacrosanct.”

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