In the early hours of April 5, the correctional facility in Owerri, Imo State, capital was stormed by a group of attackers, who drove to the prison in pickup trucks and buses, carrying rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and rifles, according to reports of the incident.
The group gained entrance into the facility, which houses the Imo State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service, by using explosives to break through the administrative block.They then released more than 1,800 inmates from jail and set the place ablaze.That this attack came less than two weeks after a previous wave of violence in the Southeastern part of the country, when at least a dozen security officers were killed during attack on four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles is indeed troubling. But even more worrisome is the fact that this is just one out of more than 15 armed attacks on prisons across the country in the last 10 years alone. In each successful attack, scores, if not hundreds of prisoners, many of them convicted felons escaped into society.For instance, the Federal Prison in Bauchi was attacked on the September 7, 2010 by scores of Boko Haram terrorists. The sect released 721 prisoners during the attack, many of whom were their members.On January 4, 2013, the Sagamu Minimum Prison in the Southwestern state of Ogun came under attack, this time from the inmates. About 20 prisoners managed to escape from the facility, and the attack left several prisoners and prison officials with serious injuries, although no death was recorded during the attack. Only four escaped convicts were rearrested. On June 30 2013 in the southwest state of Ondo the Olokuta Medium Security Prison in Akure, the state capital, was attacked by 50 unknown gunmen suspected to be armed robbers. The attackers freed about 175 prisoners from the facility, leaving 2 people dead and 1 correctional officer injured. Only 54 escaped inmates were rearrested.
In Koton-Karfi, Kogi state on November 2nd 2014, an attack on the Koto-Karffi Federal Medium Security Prison by suspected terrorists resulted in the escape of 144 inmates from the prison. Only 45 of these were recaptured while 12 inmates returned voluntarily.
On the November 30 2014, the Federal Prison at Afao road, Ado Ekiti was attacked by about 60 unknown gunmen.In that incident, 341 prisoners escaped during the attack, which left one correctional officer and 20 sniffer dogs dead. While one inmate returned voluntarily to serve out his sentence, only 67 were recaptured till date.During the EndSars protests in October 2020, armed men broke into two correctional facilities in Benin, Edo state and Okitipupa, Ondo state, resulting in the escape of more than 2000 inmates in all. During these attacks, lives were lost and properties worth hundreds of millions of naira were destroyed in both facilities.While these and other examples of armed attacks on correctional facilities in the country may fit into the wider scope of insecurity that has bedeviled the country for several years now, they also underscore a continuing failure on the part of governments at federal and state levels, to identify the factors behind so many successful attacks on our prisons and take the appropriate steps to avert further damage.
Clearly, it endangers the lives of innocent, law abiding citizens when incarcerated criminals illegally find their way back into society. And with the astronomic rise in the rates of such crimes as armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping in the country in the last few years, no one can be in doubt that this danger has reached alarming proportions. The thousands of convicts who have escaped from our prisons in the last decade could only have gone back to the lives of crime for which they were sent to prison, as there would be little or no room for such persons to engage in any legitimate pursuits.
The latest case should serve as a wakeup call to our governments, state and federal, to urgently begin the process of strengthening security in our prisons. There is also need to immediately begin to correct the structural lapses that have aided jailbreaks, whether the attackers are from outside the prison facilities or from inside of them. The 2019 Prison Reform Act signed by President Mohammadu Buhari appears to have overlooked these very vital aspects of reform in our prisons.
It is unconscionable that government would create room for a situation in which armed attackers have more sophisticated weapons than the often very few guards in our correctional facilities.
Where necessary, additional security personnel should be engaged and properly equipped to secure our correctional facilities. And as much as possible, government should liaise with the courts to speed up the disposal of mounting cases of awaiting trial inmates, some of whom have reportedly been in detention for over ten years, doing in a lot of cases more prison time than they would have had to do if they were convicted for the offences for which they were charged. This would make for easier management of security issues in the prisons, as there would be less congestion.The fact that the same gun men who attacked the Owerri prison also successfully attacked the Imo State Police Command Headquarters on the same night, burning scores of vehicles and part of the headquarters building itself and only failing in their bid to gain access into the Command’s armoury, gives even more cause for worry.The government of President Mohammadu Buhari needs to urgently step up its efforts aimed at combating insecurity in the country. The security of lives and property of the nation should be of great priority and of paramount interest.
Time to Make Public Office Less Attractive
Now that the Supreme Court has duly affirmed the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigerians are eager to see the country move forward from its present state of uncertainty.
Democracy is about a social contract between the electorate and politicians, especially those entrusted to hold public offices.
It is becoming a fact in Nigeria, nay Africa that governance is rapidly taking a much wider meaning and no longer restricted to the rule of law where administrative codes are strictly adhered to.Instead, Nigerian politicians place little or no premium on what constitutes governance, let alone good governance.
Since political power is ultimately exercised by politicians, elected into public offices, it is expected they will comply with the laid down principles and governing templates, through which they will gauge the feelings, aspirations and desires of the electorate. Those feelings and desires will ultimately make them formulate policies and programmes viz: participation of citizens, upholding the rule of law, transparency and accountability, responsiveness of the authority, consensus oriented policy, equity and inclusiveness, and strategic vision of the authority, as the case may be.
But it remains to be seen whether the present government has demonstrated enough political will to follow these principles, given its eagerness to borrow and fund consumption and ostentatious lifestyle.
Politicians take advantage of the vulnerability and gullibility of Nigerians, in terms of poverty and ethno-religious sentiments, to buy and bully their way into office without anything to offer outside the propaganda that brought them in. They spend the next four to eight years politicking rather than concentrating on good governance. This is anathema to democratic norms and ethos.
With our debt currently standing at about N80 trillion; about 133 million Nigerians gripped by multidimensional poverty; unemployment rate almost 37% among other negative indices, it is time for the government -at all levels – to hit the ground running by reviewing the social contract between it (government) and the citizenry, majority of whom are trying to eke out a living.
This brings to the fore the need to make Public office less attractive for the corrupt and power mongers among us. The zerosome way we play the game of politics is as a result of the overnight accumulation of wealth and aggregation of power that comes with winning elections. This is why, the goal for most of those contesting for elective office is not service to the people but access to the national cake and personal ego. It is high time Nigeria made governance and government less attractive by strengthening our laws and statutes.
DAILY ASSET is of the view that restructuring our judicial system, empowering the Code of Conduct Bureau and reviewing our legal status in a way and manner that people who once occupy public office and are known to be living far above their cumulative income while in office must be made to account for such wealth. In this case, the onus of proof shall rest on the accused and not the accuser. If this is not done, fraudulent public servants and politicians who occupy public office will continue to exploit the system to their advantage.
November 11 Guber Elections: A Word of Caution
Political observers have expressed security concerns about the forthcoming off-season elections in the three states of Kogi, Bayelsa and Imo. The elections are slated for the coming Saturday, November 11th, 2023.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to conduct the election in 10, 510 polling units spread across the three states.
In Bayelsa, the election will take place in 2,244 polling units, while it will hold in 3,508 polling units in Kogi; Imo has 4, 758 polling units where the election will be held.
INEC is said to be targeting about 5.4 million voters for the election – Bayelsa has 1.05 million voters; while 2.4 million voters are in Imo; Kogi has about two million voters.
The prolonged pre-election violent clashes and thuggery that have dogged the campaign are no doubt red flags to the crucial November elections. Therefore, all security agencies charged with the responsibility of organizing a successful exercise owe it a duty to rise to the occasion by being proactive before, during and after the elections. Anything other than that will be unacceptable.
Candidate Bola Tinubu during his presidential campaign had assured the electorate that he would end insecurity if elected president and that every inch of Nigeria’s national territory would be secured and defended.
“We will deal decisively with all elements threatening our peace, security and unity. I guarantee you we will end kidnapping and banditry not only through increasing our policing capacity but also through another soft approach that would promote inclusion and boost the economy of our local communities,” Tinubu said adding that “under my leadership, every inch of our national territory will be secured and defended,”
Unfortunately, six months after inauguration killers, kidnappers are still on the prowl. Nigerians are still being killed, villages are still being sacked by bandits, and kidnappers are still rampaging, while terrorists seem to be regrouping.
DAILY ASSET is hereby calling on the INEC and all critical stakeholders to rise to the occasion and do the needful. With the hues and cries from the last general elections due to the IREV glitch in uploading election results electronically, INEC now has a golden opportunity to regain its fading glory.
Furthermore, the electorate must begin to demand for a fair, free and hitch free election to demystify the troubling narrative surrounding the role of the judiciary in deciding the winner of election in the country.
A free and fair election entails that all contestants must be given a level playing field to compete without anyone enjoying any undue advantage over the other; a credible election must be an embodiment of transparency – a process where every vote counts.
Prosecute Culprits in Failed P&ID Contract
Nigeria started last week with a cheering news that she has saved herself from paying over $11 billion to a British Virgin Islands- based company, Process & Industrial Development (P&ID) Limited.
The company had dragged Nigeria to a London arbitration court for breach of contract and lack of due diligence in a contractual agreement.
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, who broke the news stated that the judgement will serve as a deterrent for those seeking to swindle the country.
It all started in 2010 with a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement the company and the Nigerian government to build a gas processing facility in Cross River State.
The terms of the project covered, reduction of gas flaring to commercialise the gas industry, including the generation of electricity for Nigerians.
Part of the contract stipulated that the Nigerian government will supply natural gas via a pipeline to the P&ID plant in Calabar.
Other terms of the contract was that the company would process the gas and return a portion as fuel for the country’s power grid while keeping the rest as a byproduct for sale.
Specifically, Nigeria would receive 85 per cent of the non-associated gas for electrical generation and industrialisation at no cost. Also, Nigeria will have a 10 per cent stake in the production plant.
Disappointingly, the terms of the contract were complied with in breach by parties, prompting accusation and counter accusations.
P&ID on its part, accused the Nigerian government of failing to build a pipeline or securing a gas supply as stipulated in the agreement, forcing it to initiate an arbitration proceeding in a London court in 2012, claiming damages for the failed project and alleging breach of contract.
In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $850m. However, in 2017, the company went back to court after realising that the Buhari government was not ready to keep to the out if court settlement.
Consequently, the London Court ordered Nigeria to pay P&ID damages, amounting to over $11 billion.
The Buhari government appealed the judgement by countering that the contract was corruptly awarded to P&ID which has no intention or capacity to undertake the project.
After years of legal battle, Nigeria has finally won the case. However, the case has exposed Nigeria’s lack of due diligence.
Though, Nigerians are celebrating the victory at this critical time that the nation’s economy is in dire stress, we should be very concerned about the failed project which could have been of immense benefit by boosting electricity generation and could have gone a long way in environmental protection.
The menace of gas flaring and attendant harm to environment is massive.
According to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Nigeria recorded a loss of over $22.9 billion to gas flaring from 2011 to 2021.
Similarly, the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme reported that Nigeria had lost potential revenue of over $1.1 billion in 2016 due to natural gas flaring.
Therefore, if the project had taken off and completed, electricity generation and supply to millions of Nigerians would have been achieved, thus pushing the frontiers of conducting businesses in Nigeria. Additionally, we could have moved a notch further to conserve and protect the environment.
DAILY ASSET is of the view that with the lessons learnt from the failed P&ID project, Nigeria must immediately embark on a similar one (but must tighten all the loose ends) to convert the wasteful flaring of natural gas to more productive and commercial use.
Most importantly, the federal government must prosecute all those involved in the failed contract, serving or retired, to account for their negligence or otherwise that had made the country to waste so much money in the process of litigation to secure the victory.
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