FORTY-eight hours after the attack on the Owerri Custodial Centre by gunmen suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, no fewer than 48 escaped inmates have been apprehended, increasing the number of inmates in custody to 84.
Among the escapees, 11 were recaptured by men of the 211 Nigerian Air Force Base, Owerri, while others either came back on their own volition or were returned by their relations, traditional rulers and religious leaders.
Six escaped inmates had earlier returned to the facility while 35 others did not escape during the attack on Monday.
Recall that 1,884 inmates were set free by the gunmen who invaded the correctional centre and the Imo State Police Command headquarters in Owerri.
The attackers, who burnt no fewer than 50 vehicles, also attacked a military base at Ukwuorji on the Owerri-Onitsha expressway and burnt a soldier in a car before they fled.
The spokesman, Nigerian Correctional Service, Francis Enobore, a Controller of Corrections, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday, titled, ‘Peace return to Owerri custodial centre, 48 escapees recovered.’
It said, “As of 1550hrs today, April 7, 2021, the centre has recovered a total of 48 inmates who escaped in the wake of the invasion, thus increasing the number of inmates presently in custody to 84, including those that resisted the temptation to escape during the attack.”Also, acting on the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the acting Controller General of Corrections, John Mrabure, has charged all staff in the command to go after the fleeing inmates and smoke them out of hiding at all cost.
He handed down the directive during an interactive session with personnel attached to the custodial centre, including those at the state headquarters.
He further asked the entire body of staff to braze up to frontally resist the emerging security challenges confronting the nation and by extension, the Nigerian Correctional Service.
Further investigation by The PUNCH revealed that none of the hardened criminals had returned to the centre.
It was also learnt that none of the inmates, who were sentenced to death and on life imprisonments, had returned to the centre.
Family sets Imo fleeing inmate ablaze
In a related development, an atmosphere of confusion engulfed Umuawom village in Iho-Dueze autonomous community in the Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State on Wednesday after a fleeing inmate was set ablaze.The victim was one of the 1,884 inmates who fled after gunmen attacked Owerri Correctional Centre on Monday.
Our correspondent gathered that the escapee, who hailed from neighbouring Ogwa community in the Mbaitoli LGA, went to the family after returning home.
He had accused the family of being responsible for his years of incarceration and wanted to get his pound of flesh.
A village source said “The guy came back from the prison after the jailbreak, dropped his bag and headed straight to the family that he had problem with, which he said landed him in prison.
“On sighting the prison escapee, the family became charged. The guy told the family members that he had come home and was ready to deal with them. Altercation ensued and he was set ablaze.”
When contacted for comments, the police spokesman in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, said he had yet to be briefed officially on the matter.
Abaribe demands probe
Meanwhile, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe on Wednesday, demanded a thorough investigation into the rising wave of attack on police formations across the country, especially the ones that happened recently in Imo State.
Abaribe condemned the frightening surge of violence in the South-East, particularly the attack on the Owerri Correctional Centre, Ebonyi and Enugu states.
A statement by his media aide, Uche Awom, urged the security agencies to unravel the motives behind the incessant attacks and apprehend the criminal elements to face the full weight of the law.