Terrorists bomb Nigeria’s most fortified prison and free rebels and criminals outside Abuja

By Akin Irede
Posted on Wednesday, 6 July 2022 14:20, updated on Thursday, 7 July 2022 16:03

Kuje prison in Abuja. Akin Irede.

Nigeria’s rising insecurity reached new heights on Tuesday night 5 July as terrorists bombed Kuje prison, the nation’s most fortified correctional centre. The country's most notorious terrorist suspects are being detained there. No fewer than 600 inmates were freed in the process, although authorities say about 300 escapees have now been captured. Nigeria’s defence minister Bashir Magashi says all 64 inmates that have links to the Boko Haram Islamist rebel group are still on the loose.

The incident happened barely hours after terrorists launched a daring attack on the advance security team of President Muhammadu Buhari, which had gone to Katsina State to make security arrangements ahead of the President’s arrival for the Sallah celebration in his hometown of Daura. Two policemen were killed in the attack.

Kuje, a town located on the outskirts of Abuja, the nation’s capital, has witnessed a spike in violent attacks in recent months. A leaked government memo quoted Nigerian intelligence agencies as saying that terrorists from Nigeria’s north-east and north-west had relocated to some parts of the outskirts of Abuja.

Abuja had some nine years ago witnessed a series of terrorist attacks, including the bombing of the United Nations building, an attack on the police headquarters, a plaza and a military barracks.

Worries in Abuja and beyond

Recent attacks have been limited to the outskirts of Abuja. However, these renewed attacks are now sparking fear in the minds of the millions of residents in the city, where nearly every embassy and government agency in Nigeria is headquartered.

President Buhari was elected in 2015 mainly on his credentials as a retired general with experience in tackling insecurity. However, while the activities of Boko Haram in the north-east have reduced considerably, other parts of the country are now experiencing unprecedented levels of violent attacks.

No fewer than 14 prison breaks have occurred in the country in the past five years, with nearly 9,000 inmates released in the process and nearly half of them still on the run, according to a tally by The Africa Report.

The security threat

Mike Ejiofor, a former director of the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s intelligence agency, tells The Africa Report that the attacks are a big problem and pose a great challenge to security in Nigeria’s capital.

Ejiofor says it is curious that the attack on the prison comes amid a demand by terrorists for their colleagues to be released.

“It is worrisome that we continue to record jail breaks despite efforts to fortify these facilities. These terrorists have been calling for the release of their colleagues. So, this attack may be connected,” he says.

“Everyone must now be on their toes and see what they can do because this portends danger for all of us if all these inmates are not immediately arrested,” Ejiofor concludes.

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