VICTOR OGUNJE, Ado-Ekiti
IN what seems like an uncommon phenomenon in Ekiti State, some yet-to-be identified gunmen at the wee-hours of Sunday, November 31, hit the Federal Prisons in Ado Ekiti and freed over 300 inmates .
Though, jailbreak and attacks on prison have become a commonplace in the country, particularly with the advent of insurgents in the Northeastern States of the country like Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and occasionally Plateau States, in Ekiti, the attack came as the first on such a prohibited centre, which created an atmosphere of tension and panic across the strata of the society, particularly Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
The gunmen, who had put the people in abeyance on whether they were members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents or robbers, who came to free their members under trial, also left a scar of sorrow and anguish as they killed a prison officer on guard during the midnight attack. They also proved their notoriety further as they shot all the 20 sniffer dogs being used for subtle operation.
One thing has become a common feature in Nigeria, that is reducing issue of a dangerous dimension to politics. It is no gainsaying the fact that the country was quick to tame the rising profile of the dreaded Ebola Virus that hit the country like a bush fire in the harmattan, because it was not politicized. Since the advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the fight against Ebola remains the best patriotic step displayed by all Nigerians irrespective of creed, religion or political leanings. They brought to bear a common national interest, which many analysts believed that the lack of this feature had accounted for the colossal failure being recorded in the issue of insurgency pummeling the nation.
Rather than accepting that the attack against the prison was a fight against the State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) have been making political capital out of it. This, in actual fact, may be the greatest undoing of the State, if people cannot be wise enough to separate politics from reality.
The Governor of the State, Dr Ayodele Fayose, did not hide his disdain for the attack when he visited the prison for an on-the-spot assessment. Fayose alleged that it was a conspiracy against his government. He believed and still believe that there was an internal connivance within the rank of the prison officials with the opposition to run down his government. Without blinking an eye, Fayose, who lampooned the Prison Comptroller in Ekiti, Mr. Kehinde Fadipe, for his complacency, called for immediate transfer of high placed officials of the prison for the State to have peace. The Governor said his call for punitive measures against the officials was not preposterous. He said he made such call based on veracious intelligence reports at his disposal.
Meanwhile, the people actually caught cold when the news filtered into town that members of Boko Haram had hit a section of Ado-Ekiti. They became troubled because several prophesies had been released, warning the South-West to beware of the scourge of insurgency, which nobody new the entry point. To confirm the fear, traders, who had reported for business at the popular Erekesan market on Monday, December 1, had to hurriedly pack their wares and rushed back home. The fear was not, however, misplaced because the consistent chanting of ‘Allahu Akbaru’, ‘Allahu Akbaru’, which literally connotes ‘God is the greatest’ by these assailants while performing their nefarious activities, gave credence to the fact that they might be Boko Haram members. Conversely, the revelation that one notorious robber, Chinedu, being tried in Court for robbery and murder is now at large since the attack, also brought confusion that it could be a ploy from some robbers to free one of their own from the gulag.
Despite this seeming confusion and snag, which made it difficult for people to actually know where the attack was coming from, the duo of PDP and APC believed unwaveringly that the violence was politically-orchestrated. While the PDP thought and constantly maintained that it was targetted at painting Fayose government as being violent, the APC, which branded the present government as being violent, had the unflinching impression that it was orchestrated to free some robbers who are favourably disposed to the government with an attempt to form a killer squad that would be unleashed on the opposition figures.
Accusing the APC of complicity in the saga , Fayose added: “This is an attempt to derail my government. Nothing like this has ever happened in Ekiti before. But it is rather bad because they did this in connivance with some officials of the prison. I, therefore, call on the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, to transfer them out of Ekiti. We cannot afford to be having them here and allow them to constitute a security threat to us”. Another statement fired by the Special Assistant on Public Communications to the Governor, Lere Olayinka, alleged that it was a ploy to free one of the inmates, Niyi Adedipe, an ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi’s allies, who is being detained for alleged murder in the prison.
But the State Comptroller of Prisons, who dispelled the allegation of internal conspiracy, said: “We could not have conspired against our own organization. It was an attack not a jailbreak and we did not prepare for it. But I am confident that those that were rumoured to have left like Adedipe are still in the custody. But we are assuring the people that we will work hard to prevent future occurrence of this sordid scenario. We are working round the clock to ensure that those that escaped are rearrested to serve out their jail terms”.
Refuting Fayose’s diatribe, a statement by APC state Publicity Secretary, Hon. Taiwo Olatunbosun, alleged that the latest report of the sighting of four of the escaped prisoners in the Government House confirmed the earlier suspicion that the incident was an orchestrated plan to free criminals friendly with the government to unleash them on the opponents as suspicion of alleged killer squad in Ekiti State grew. The APC Spokesman said: “If the jail break was an attempt by APC to free Niyi Adedipe as alleged by the PDP, why did Adedipe report himself to the police and subsequently surrendered himself to the prisons authorities without being declared wanted? Again, if the jail break is to kill Niyi Adedipe as alleged by Fayose, Why was he not killed?
“Today, Ekiti people have information that four of the escapees, including a notorious criminal and serial rapist that participated in attacking Fayose’s opponents during his first stint, are being lodged in the chalets behind the Presidential Lodge in the Government House”. He added that the unfolding drama confirmed APC’s outcry that a killer squad is being raised to unleash mayhem on perceived opponents. “We have raised issues on the reasons why Fayose specifically demanded the police authorities in Abuja to post back to Ekiti State some of the police officers that worked with him during his first stint. These officers formed the core of the killer squad that were indicted by the SSS panel set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo. We can now see why security vote for security agents to fight crimes has been reduced while personal security vote for the Governor has doubled”. The party urged the security agents to comb the Presidential Lodge of the Government House in Ekiti to re-arrest the escapee inmates in the interest of the populace and the security of the citizens.
Speaking on the issue, the Command’s spokesman, Mr. Victor Babayemi, said about 200 have been rearrested out of the escapee inmates and they are presently being detained at the Police headquarters. He said the escaped inmates were arrested by various divisions like Ido, Ikere-Ekiti and 14 other police stations across the State. The PPRO said acting on a tip off, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, led a team to a hideout where the escaped criminals had converged. Babayemi said there was a serious exchange of gunshots during the operation, saying 10 people were arrested at that point. He, however, said some of the escaped inmates had voluntarily returned after being forced out by the attackers on Sunday.
Babayemi, said the command would investigate how they escaped from the prison, assuring that those behind the nefarious act will be arrested soon. “This is not a natural occurrence and we have to find out what led to the crime because it is highly criminal for people to attack a prison with intention to wreak havoc and free inmates”.
Now, APC and the PDP are yet to sheathe their swords on the reason behind the attack. But the outcome of police investigation would determine who is guilty and who is innocent between them.