More than 2,058 prisoners escaped from the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) facilities in 2020 following jail breaks in Delta, Edo and Ondo states.
Five inmates died while trying to escape from prisons in Kaduna and Imo states, according to a Daily Trust report.
The most recent jailbreak was the escape of 1,993 prisoners from two correctional facilities in Edo State, on October 19, 2020, which the Comptroller of the facility, Andrew Egbobawaye, confirmed shortly after the jailbreaks.
Taking advantage of the #EndSARS protest, hoodlums using local tools and weapons, broke into the prisons and freed inmates.
It was gathered that the armed hoodlums overpowered the prison guards and then freed inmates from the prisons.
Sources said the guards repelled two attempts by the hooligans before they were overpowered.
Many correction officers were said to have sustained gunshot wounds in their effort to restrain the attackers.
The Comptroller of NCS in Edo State, Babayo Maisanda, a few days after the incident, said the number of inmates at large was 1,818, while 163 had either been recaptured or secured.
However, a few inmates surrendered themselves after the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, gave a two-day ultimatum to the 1,818 at large to return to the facilities or face the full wrath of the law.
A day after the Edo jailbreaks on October 22, 2020, another prison was forced open at Okitipupa in Ondo State, where 58 prisoners escaped. But a similar attempt was foiled on the same day at the Ikoyi Prison in Lagos State.
A total of 2,051 inmates escaped after the jailbreaks in Edo and Ondo states.
Another jailbreak was recorded on Tuesday, April 29, 2020, at the NCS Custodial Centre in Sapele, Delta State, where two inmates escaped and six others were shot.
The jailbreak occurred a few days after the facility was set on fire by inmates who were protesting alleged ill-treatment and “selective amnesty” granted to some inmates of the facility by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. They insisted that they all deserved equal treatment as prisoners.
On May 17, 2020, a prisoner was killed and many others injured during a failed attempt to escape from a prison in Aba, Abia State.
Sources revealed that in that attempt, the prisoners who were mostly old with a few years left for them to regain their freedom, inflicted serious injuries on some armed guards and that while trying to save their lives, the guards shot at the rampaging inmates and one died.
Also, on April 5, 2020, four inmates died while attempting to escape from a Kaduna correctional facility.
Spokesman for the NCS in Kaduna State, Sanusi Danmusa, said in a statement that four inmates sustained injuries while being restrained by correction officers, but that, “The four inmates later died in hospital from the injuries they sustained.”
Danmusa added that, “For the avoidance of doubt, all the deceased inmates were from the condemned section of the custodial centre.”
It was gathered that the inmates at the facility attempted to escape over fear of suspected case of COVID-19 among them.
Other inmates subsequently staged a protest, demanding their freedom to avoid contracting the virus.
The spokesman said the command was not hiding any “truth” on the matter, noting that NCS was not trying to get the inmates infected with COVID-19 as alleged by social media posts.
Days after their escape, a number of convicts immediately returned to murder, armed robbery and posing serious threat to society.
On November 30, 2020, four out of the 1,993 inmates who escaped from Oko in Edo State were rearrested by the police for robbery, carjacking and unlawful possession of firearms in Kaduna State.
The police spokesman, Frank Mba, paraded the suspects in Abuja and gave their names as Adebayo Opeyemi, Onos Benjamin, Peter Felix and Alhaji Hudu Musa.
Also, one of the fugitives ran back to his village on the day he escaped and killed the person who stood as a prosecution witness in the case that took him to prison.
The Edo Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, while parading the suspect alongside 126 suspected criminals, said that 10 of the suspects were the inmates who escaped from prison earlier.
A security expert advised that the recent prison breaks in the country should serve as a wake-up call to the executive arm of government to commence a total reformation of the prisons in Nigeria.
A research published in the International Journal of Science and Research Publication has attributed the recent prison breaks to two major reasons.
In the research by Onah Oliver O et al (2019) titled: “Increasing Cases of Prison Break in Nigeria: A Theoretical Explanation”, they argue that the Nigerian prison system has been captured by two high-stake interest groups:
One, wealthy prison inmates who live like kings within the prison walls; and two, a powerful cabal within the NCS authority who are involved in selling prison jobs and promotion to the highest bidders.
The researchers further argued that the trend had weakened the NCS operations and contributed to incessant jail breaks. The paper also highlighted the way forward for the NCS.