Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who visited the scene of Tuesday night’s attack in the company of principal officers, described the security arrangement at the Centre as unacceptable.
No fewer than 416 inmates, including all 64 Boko Haram commanders and men, escaped. Four inmates and an operative of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were killed.
The Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility of the attack.
It was learnt yesterday that four of the terrorists were killed.
Lawan wondered how about 300 terrorists would successfully launch such an attack undetected. To him, the success of the invasion is symptomatic of the failure of security across the country.
Lawan said the Senate would probe the incident to determine the remote and immediate causes of the attack and to prevent a recurrence.
He lamented that the mass escape of hardened terrorists from the Centre during the attack has further worsened insecurity in Abuja, the seat of power. The Senate President believes there was the possibility of insider connivance in the jailbreak.
He led the leadership, including his deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Minority Leader Senator Philip Aduda; Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and others to the facility.
Lawan spoke to reporters after being conducted around the Centre by the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa.
He said: “We were told that an estimated 300 terrorists attacked this facility. They came on foot, and I believe they should have been detected.
“In the first place, 300 people will not come for an operation like this without planning. Planning must have taken a week, a month or a bit more. I believe that our security agencies should have picked this from their tracking systems in the FCT.
“Secondly, having gone round the facility itself, we are disappointed that this facility does not have Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras, something that would record and give you details of what is happening and sometimes record the events.
“This is a medium-security custodial centre. How on earth in the FCT and in a facility of this magnitude do we not have CCTV? It means we can say that all other medium security centres across the country do not have CCTV.
“We have asked the Comptroller General of Correctional Centre to ensure that the request for CCTV at the maximum and medium custodial centres of the country are included in their 2023 budget because this is essential and indispensable.
“Now, as this facility lacks a functional CCTV, there’s no record of what happened, except narration. If we had CCTV, at least, the records would have been there and analysis made and arrest will be based on the information from the CCTV.”
Suggesting possible collusion, Lawan added: “Going from one cell to another to release people, specifically, those that are known to be insurgents, tells a lot of stories. It may not be far away from an insider job, someone who is either working in this place or must have worked here.
“I think we have to look deeper into what happened, so that we find the culprits, because when things like this happen, then there should be sanctions. Where people fail to do their job properly, and they have been given that responsibility, they should be asked to take responsibility.
“If people don’t take responsibility for their failure, then it means nobody would bother to do what is expected of their office or the job that the person has been given. Having this kind of situation in the FCT, criminals who are free now all over the city, is very dangerous and you can never have peace of mind.
“The FCT houses the seat of government, and today that seat is not safe. So, we have to do whatever it takes to get everybody back. There should be an end to all these issues of jailbreak or outright attacks,” he said.
Nababa told the Senate delegation that 51 security operatives were on guard during the attack.
He said they were overwhelmed by the 300 attackers who were armed with AK47s and Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs).
“Our men and other security operatives like the Army and Police gave the attackers the required counter-offensive which made them suffer casualty of about four terrorists,” he said.
Irked by his submission, Omo-Agege said killing four of 300 attackers was nothing to write home about.
“I’m personally disturbed by this your submission. Killing just four terrorists out of 300 is nothing to me.
“This type of poor response to the heinous crime of this nature is not deterring in any way because they can attack again,” he said.
Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Army Battalion in Gwagwalada, Lieutenant Colonel J.K. Adisa, added that the over 300 terrorists overwhelmed the about 50 personnel on guard.
He also said four terrorists were killed by the security forces.
Ndume, Kalu seek action
Senator Alli Ndume urged President Muhammadu Buhari to order the security chiefs to produce the perpetrators within two days.
Ndume, who chairs the Senate Committee on Army, spoke on Channels Politics Today.
He faulted Lawan’s comments about possible collusion.
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Ndume said it was unfortunate that the government was doing so little as far to secure lives and property.
According to him, it was not enough for the President to say he was disappointed with the incident.
“The President is supposed to get the heads of the security formations and give them a marching order to get the perpetrators within two days.
“On issues of this magnitude, the President should be talking to Nigerians. It is unfortunate, as things are getting out of hand,” he added.
He said it was evident that the security agencies were handicapped with inadequate personnel, equipment and training to repel such attacks.
Ndume said the Kuje incident was not the first time, querying what was done to tame a reoccurrence.
“We are not prioritising the issue of security in this country. Nigerian with 200 million people has less than 100,000 security personnel.
We need more police personnel. I can tell you that we have a security problem in this country.
“We need to get enough security personnel for such facilities. Those places don’t have the security apparatus and equipment,” the Senator said.
Senator Kalu, in a statement, condemned the attack and called for a beef-up of security in all Correctional facilities.
“The sponsors and perpetrators of the devilish act must be identified and prosecuted to avert recurrence.
“The security agencies must work aggressively to investigate the ugly incident in a bid to bring the perpetrators to book,” he said.
Aregbesola: security after fleeing inmates
Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola, called for calm, adding that efforts were being made to re-arrest fleeing inmates.
He said security personnel were combing the whole area, up to a distance of 100 kilometres radius, in search of the escapees.
In a statement by his media aide, Sola Fasure, Aregbesola said there was a new form of attack on the nation’s correctional facility for which the system was not prepared.
“Our system was primed to prevent and foil internal disturbance and riots, not external attacks/invasion since the facilities were usually built around police and military formations,” he said.
The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) is said to be coordinating the manhunt.
A source at the Kuje Centre told The Nation that security officers were on the trail of the fleeing inmates.
“We are under intense pressure to recapture all the escapees including the 64 Boko Haram members.
“Investigations are going on at all levels of the country’s security architecture to unravel the circumstances surrounding the attacks, especially as Mr President expressed reservations and disappointment on the intelligence community,” the source said.
US, UK warn citizens
The United States and United Kingdom governments warned their citizens in Nigeria to be security conscious.
The US Consulate in Nigeria, in a statement on its website, asked citizens to avoid unnecessary travel on the Airport Road in Abuja.
It stated: “It is recommended that US citizens should maintain a high state of personal security awareness for the next two weeks and avoid unnecessary travel on the airport road.
“Crime is endemic throughout Nigeria and tends to spike after dark.
“Avoiding locations and situations that increase the likelihood of being victimised is the best defence. Avoid displays of valuables and limit nighttime activity.”
According to the Consulate, terrorist groups and those inspired by such organisations are intent on attacking US citizens abroad.
It observed that terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack, including knives, firearms, and vehicles to target crowds.
“Frequently, their aim is focused on unprotected or vulnerable targets.”
The Consulate offered security tips for Americans in Nigeria.
They were told to avoid high-profile public events, such as sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events and celebratory gatherings.
They are also to avoid hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists, places of worship, schools, parks, shopping malls and markets.
“Be aware of your surroundings. Keep a low profile, carry proper identification and monitor local media for updates. Review your personal security plans.
“Always drive with your windows rolled up and the doors locked.
“Avoid large gatherings and protests. Review alternative travel routes in case of unexpected protests or unrest.
“Exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests. Always keep the doors to your residence locked, even when at home,” the statement added.
The UK warned its citizens against travelling to 19 states in Nigeria.
The states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
The UK government advised its citizens to only embark on essential travel to Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi, within 20km of the border with Niger in Kebbi State, Abia and non-riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Plateau and Taraba.
Security is being beefed-up in correctional centres across the country.
The spokesman of the Lagos Centre, Mr Rotimi Oladokun, confirmed the reinforcements.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) wondered what could have happened had its leader Nnamdi Kanu been at the Kuje Centre during the attack.
In a statement by its spokesman Emma Powerful, it urged the Federal Government to relocate him from the Department of State Services (DSS) custody to a remand centre in the Southeast.
President Muhammadu Buhari has called an emergency security council at the Villa today.