By Olusesan Laoye
In what appeared to be like a movie to the security guards at the Abalongo correctional Centre in Oyo township, Oyo state, the gun men who attacked the centre were said to have invaded the place in a commando manner which took them unawares.
According to one of the officers on duty when the incident occurred late Friday night, the attackers came in a commando way and went straight for business.
He disclosed that the marauders were up to 20 in number as they surrounded the centre even as they were fully armed with sophisticated weapons.
The officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that the attackers who presumably already knew that coming in through the main gate would draw attention to them, after some gun shots to scare people away, instantly blew the back fence of the centre with dynamite which exploded like a rocket and quickly rushed into the cells section from where the over 837 inmates were freed.
Sources hinted that the manner with which the gun men invaded the correctional centre was typical of what was experienced in other African countries recently, especially Uganda and Tanzania where dynamite was used to invade their prisons to free inmates.
The Oyo incident also brings to about five of its kind in Nigeria in the the last few years including incidents in Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna and Jos.
Although the correctional centre authorities have said that 262 of the escaped inmates have been recaptured back to the centre, as many as 575 are still at large. Accordingly, there is palpable fear in Oyo township and environs, as there are speculations that hardened criminals must definitely be among those who still at large.
Although the motives of the heavily armed gun men who invaded the Abalongo correctional centre were not known, there were feelings that the operation may have been carried out to free some of the inmates known to them and who may have been detained for committing heavy capital criminal offenses.
Some of the residents in the area who spoke with reporters pointed out that they are now living in fear because they were not sure what would be the next steps of the attackers, since they are yet to be identified and their exact mission in carrying out the operation was still not conclusively known.
One of the residents, who simply identified himself as a tailor and who refused to mention his name for fear of being attacked, said what the security operatives will now have to do is to unravel their missions and find out if there were any inside connections in the operation because it was strange to them.
He said that at the time of the attack, the gun shots and the explosives used by the assailants rent the air and residents had to run for safety, since, they could not ascertain what was happening in view of the insecurity and incessant attacks by bandits, all over Nigeria, saying that the incident was an indication that no where is safe.
” It was an indication as well, that all parts of Nigeria are now vulnerable to attacks of any kind.”
It was learnt that the Alaafin of Oyo has shown concern and has communicated with the State Governor Engineer Seyi Makinde and the Commissioner of Police in the State, that they should ensure that the entire Oyo township and environs are well protected from criminals.
It was said that he also assured the security operatives of his cooperation and that of his people. He was also said to have informed the people of the town to be more careful and be vigilant and should not shy away from reporting to the police or appropriate authorities, of any suspect or movements of unknown faces in their communities.
It was said that out of the 907 inmates at the centre, 837 are on awaiting trial while only 64 have been convicted.
When contacted on the implications of trials being delayed, which has culminated in having a large numbers of people awaiting trials in virtually all the correctional centers in Nigeria, a legal luminary politician and former governorship aspirant in Osun State in the last governorship election, and who holds a Doctorate Degree in Jurisprudence, Dr. (Prince) Ayoade Adewopo told Business Hallmark that the legal system in Nigeria is responsible for the lack of quick dispensation of justice.
He also averred that there was also a lack of proper investigations by the law enforcement agencies prosecuting many criminal cases, which contributes to the delay in dispensing cases in courts.
He said since Judges would need clear evidence from those investigating serious or capital Offenses, Judges would have no choice than to keep the suspected criminals in custody, since, they are charged with unbailable offenses.
Also, he said suspects also stay long in detention when they have no legal representation that could help their matters and this he said, often leads to frustration among the suspected criminals.
“Some of them don’t have those to stand surety for them even if their offenses are bailable ones and that is why you have inmates spending donkey years in prison custody for minor offenses which are not supposed to keep them for long in detention.”
He then asked that some of the criminal laws in Nigeria should be reviewed to allow for quicker dispensations of Justice.
He called on both the Correctional officers and the security operatives to swing into action and investigate the reasons behind the attack in such a deadly manner and those behind it and the inmates who could not be found.
While reacting to the attack, the Public Relations Officer of the Centre, Olanrewaju Anjonrin told Journalists that the Controller General of the organisation, Haruna Baba has directed that efforts should be made to investigate the reasons for the incident and assured that those at large would be fished out.
He pointed out that based the instruction of the Controller General, the State Controller for Oyo State, Noel Ailewon has swung into action and the command is making frantic efforts, to arrest the situation.
Mr. Anjonrin then assured the people of Oyo State, especially those in Oyo township and environs not to panic saying, that the situation has been brought under control.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports stated that during the gun dwell with the attackers, a soldier who was trying to scrutinise them when he suspected foul play was gunned down, while it was also alleged that two Amotekun operatives, who first confronted the gun men were shot dead as well.
The Abalongo correctional centre was established in 2007, for 160 inmates but at the time it was attacked last Friday, the occupants were 907.