Inmates’ escape: Suleja Prison was built with mud 100 years ago – Senate

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Nigerian Senate, on Tuesday, explained the root cause of the escape of inmates at Suleja Medium Security Custodial Centre, two weeks ago.

Briefing journalists after a closed door session with the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Senator Adams Oshiomhole, Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, said what happened in Suleja was not actually a jailbreak, but the collapse of the moribund bricks of the prison wall, which was built over 100 years ago with muds.

Recall that 118 Inmates escaped from Suleja Correctional Facility after a heavy rain on April 24, 2024.

Tunji-Ojo, had, during his visit to the affected facility, said government was planning to relocate some Correctional Centres to create better places.

But the Senate, on Tuesday, said the efforts by the Minister and the security agencies had helped in re-arresting some of the inmates, saying more would be tracked in the coming days.

“I know exactly that this particular prison was built in 1914. I think that was the year of amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria for about 200 people. And they now have about 419 inmates. And some of these places were built with mud.

“So, it was not really a jailbreak. You had heavy rainfall, a storm, and then the wall fell, and then the roof, even if you were in your private house and it is raining and you have a storm and your roof is gone and your walls come down, you will remain in the place?

“And so, naturally, people find escape. The good news is that they have what it takes to retrack them. And they have already re-arrested some of them, and the effort is still ongoing to get the rest people”, Oshiomhole said.

The Senator, while hailing the presentation of the Minister during the closed door session, said, “We are satisfied, very satisfied with the Minister’s briefing. I believe he is doing what needs to be done. But going forward, we have to do what we have to do to appropriate more resources to modernize our prisons. They are made to be correctional, so they are not condemnation centers.

“And I don’t like lamenting something that we can do something about. So we are unanimous that we need to, take advantage of our role, the National Assembly, for our preparation to recognize that these prisons built hundred years ago simply don’t meet model requirements. And if you keep patching them, that is not going to do the deal. And of course, take advantage of modern technology to do what we have to do”.

Speaking on other critical issues the Ministry was working on, Oshiomhole said, “one other sad thing which is not quite right is the fact that majority of people in our prisons have not been convicted. That, for me is sad, because of our laws, you are presumed innocent until you are convicted.

“Now somebody commits an offence, probably fights the other, and take him to prison. A Magistrate is in a hurry to remand, depending on who wants the person detained. And so we have a lot of people.

“The third element is the fact that most of the people in prison are under state offenses. And under the constitution, as amended, the state ought to bear responsibilities for people convicted under the laws of the state.

“And so if you use biased or neglect and you put people into prison, you have to spend government money to feed them there and feed them properly. But right now, the states are putting their mouth where they are not putting their money. Because a lot of these offenses are state offenses. The federal offenses are not up to 10%.

“So there are a couple of reorganizations that need to be done. But we, the Senate, would like to go round and see people, find out. We find some people in prison who couldn’t afford to pay 10,000 naira fine or 20,000 naira. And the cost of feeding him in prison is much more than the amount that the Magistrate or the High court fined him.

“There are a couple of things we could do differently without spending money. Just having the political will to review some of the things we have taken for granted. There are a lot of men and women who have no connections, who are wasting away in prison. We want to see how we can put an end to that, without encouraging crime. We also don’t need to criminalize innocent citizens. Now, how you deal with that, requires that we do a meticulous job”.

On his part, the Minister said the lawmakers had been briefed appropriately about the incident at Suleja Prisons, and possible solutions had been suggested during the closed door session, saying everything was under control.

“We spoke about the root cause of the matter. What happened. We spoke about what we are doing, which I won’t be able to say here for security reasons. And we also discussed about solutions in terms of making sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

“And I can tell you, the federal government is in control of this, everything is under control. Mr. President, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is actually putting in everything through the Ministry of Interior and the Nigerian Correctional Services, to make sure that there is no reoccurrence. We will have a correctional center that is safe for all inmates”, Tunji-Ojo added.

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