A violent protest by inmates at the Abakaliki Prisons in Ebonyi State over alleged poor treatment and inadequate on Thursday morning 18th August 2016 led to the death of 12 of them.
There were, however, claims that the inmates were killed during a foiled jail break.
The news men learnt that several prisons officials sustained serious injuries as they attempted to prevent the inmates from escaping from the complex.
At the time of filing this report, the state Comptroller of Prisons, Mrs. Oputa Emilia, said she was not disposed to talk on the matter.
She however confirmed that some people were injured in the process but denied knowledge of any death or snatching of guns from prisons guards by the inmates.
She acknowledged that some prisoners broke part of the fence but said that the situation had been brought under control.
A senior official of the prisons who did not want to be named explained that some prisoners were killed and their bodies were being evacuated, stressing that the death of the inmates resulted from self-defence by the attacked prisons personnel.
The source revealed that the angry inmates started rioting inside the prison and used dangerous objects within their reach to attack warders and consequently injured many of them.
It was gathered that trouble started when prisoners revolted against poor treatment, especially inadequate feeding. The prison officers, it was learnt, returned fire-for-fire which led to the death of the inmates while others sustained gunshot wounds.
An eyewitness said that but for the prompt response of the combined team of the prison officers, Nigeria Police and Nigerian Army drafted to the scene, the inmates had started escaping from the prison having over-powered the guards.
Gunshots were said to have been heard, intermittently, as policemen and soldiers tried to recover firearms allegedly seized from the prison officers by the inmates.
It was learnt that the rioting inmates created an opening on the prison wall before anti-riot policemen arrived at the scene and fired tear gas canisters to force the inmates into submission.
The Commander of Military Cantonment and the Commissioner of Police later visited the area and co-ordinated the operations to restore sanity to the prison.
The Police Spokesman, George Okafor, said the command was still working hard to resolve the crisis. However, he could not confirm the death toll.
“There was an attempted jailbreak and the prisons called in the police. We cordoned off the area and restored normalcy to the place,” he said.
Gov Umahi declares a state of emergency on Abakaliki Prisons Meanwhile, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has declared a state of emergency in the prison. Umahi announced the measure when he visited the prisons after a botched jailbreak by the inmates.
The governor, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Anya, said: “Early in the morning (Thursday), I was told of an attempted jailbreak by inmates of Abakaliki Prisons. The Commissioner of Police (Peace Ibekwe-Abdallah) reported the incident to me and did promise that they (police) were reinforcing. She told me she had contacted all the security chiefs in the state. They successfully prevented the inmates from escaping.
“Luckily, I am told that the prisoners are not complaining of any maltreatment and malnutrition. I was told that those who attempted the escape are those awaiting trial. I was told that there are so many of them awaiting trial. This is not good for us.”
Umahi directed the state Director of Prisons, Adaobi Oputa, to compile such cases and send to him so that the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Aloy Nwankwo, can wade into the matter.
He decried the level of infrastructure decay in the Abakiliki Prisons, saying such was not good for the inmates. Noting that the structures were built in the 1960s, he promised to partner with the prisons authorities to modernise the facility.