Kuje attack: Our security system has failed — Senate

THE Senate yesterday took a swipe at the management of Kuje Prisons over the unhindered attack on it in the early hours of Wednesday by terrorists of Islamic State for West African Province, ISWAP, saying  it speaks volumes about the failure of the country’s security architecture.

The Senate, while describing the incident as unfortunate and disappointing, cited insider conspiracy, even as it expressed its total displeasure over non-functional Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, at the prison which incapacitated  the management and security  operatives from preventing and responding appropriately to the attack that led to the escape of over 800 inmates.

Like the Senate, angry reactions from the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, its counterpart in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Social Democratic Party, African Democratic Congress, ADC; Middle Belt Forum, MBF, and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, greeted the terrorist attack.

Attack can only take place with insiders’ collaboration —Senate President

Speaking, yesterday, in Abuja when he led a delegation of the leadership of the Senate to assess the level of attack on the prison, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said an attack on the Kuje Medium Security Prison could only have been possible with the collaboration of insiders in the nation’s prison system.

Lawan, who expressed anger over what happened in Kuje, was with his Deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and other principal officers.

Lawmakers on the Senate delegation, which also had some members of the Committee on National Security and Intelligence, were conducted around the facility by the Controller-General of Prisons, Haliru Nababa.

They wondered how 300 ISWAP operatives accessed the premises of the prison on foot, forced their way into the various cells and released over 800 inmates for over an hour without any counter offensive from security personnel on ground.

Lawan asked the Controller-General of Prisons to include a request for the provision of CCTV across maximum and medium prisons across the country in its 2023 budget proposal to the National Assembly for approval.

Attack unacceptable

Speaking after an assessment of thefacility, Lawan said: “This is unacceptable and will not be condoned. For CCTV and other relevant tracking gadgets not to be functional is highly disturbing and dangerous for the security of inmates and residents of the Federal Capital Territory.

“The way the operation was even carried out, based on inspection made by us, strongly indicate insiders’ connivance which must be critically looked into.

“The attack on this facility is symptomatic of the failure of security. The attack is only a culmination of the failure.

“We were told that an estimated 300 terrorists attacked this facility. They came on foot, and I believe they should have been detected.

“In the first place, 300 people will not come for an operation like this without planning. Planning must have taken a week, a month or a bit more. I believe our security agencies should have picked this from their tracking systems in the FCT.

“Secondly, having gone round the facility itself, we are disappointed that this facility does not have Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, cameras, something that would record and give you details of what is happening and sometimes record the events.

“This is a medium security prison.  How on earth in the FCT a facility of this magnitude will not have CCTV? It means we can say that all other medium security centres across the country do not have CCTV.

“We have asked the Controller-General of Prisons to ensure request for CCTV at the maximum and medium custodial centres of the country is included in their 2023 budget because this is essential and indispensable.

“Now, as this facility lacks a functional CCTV, there’s no record of what happened, except narration. But if we had CCTV, at least the records would have been there and analyses made, and arrest will be based on the information from the CCTV.

“Thirdly, going from one cell to another to release people, specifically, those that are known to be insurgents, tells a lot of story.

“It may not be far away from an insider job, someone who is either working in this place or must have worked here. I think we have to look deeper into what happened, so we can find the culprits, because when things like this happen, then there should be sanctions.

“Where people fail to do their job properly, and they have been given that responsibility, they should be asked to take responsibility.

“If people don’t take responsibility for their failure, then it means nobody would bother to do what is expected of his office or job.

“Having this kind of situation today in the FCT, that we have criminals who are free now all over the city is very dangerous and you can never have peace of mind. The FCT has the seat of government, and today, that seat is not safe.   So, we have to do whatever it takes to get everybody back.”

Lawan tasked security agencies to ensure the insurgents who escaped from the Kuje medium prisons are found and brought back.

51 security personnel were on ground during the attack

Briefing the lawmakers earlier, the Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Army Battalion in Gwagwalada, Lt-Col. Adisa, said no fewer than  300 insurgents carried out the attack, disclosing that only 51 security personnel were on ground when the terrorists, armed with IEDs, stormed the facility.

From the barrage of questions fired at the Controller-General of Prisons, Haliru Nababa, he said 51 security officers were said to be on ground at the time of the attack.

The 51 security operatives as submitted by the C-G, got overwhelmed by the 300 attackers armed with AK-47 and Improvised Explosives Devices, IEDs.

He said:  “Our men and other security operatives like the Army and Police gave the attackers the required counter-offensive which made them to suffer casualty of about four terrorists.”

Irked by his submission, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Omo- Agege, who noted that  killing four out of 300 was nothing to write home about, said: “I’m personally disturbed by your submission.

“Killing just four terrorists out of 300 is nothing to me. This type of poor response to heinous crime of this nature is not deterring in anyway because they can attack again.”

Nigeria under siege—Afenifere, Bode George, SDP

Reacting to the attack, the Pan-Yoruba Socio-political Organization, Afenifere, and former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George, expressed worry over the worsening state of insecurity in the country, lamenting that Nigeria was under siege.

They warned that the insecurity situation was getting out of hand “at a rate faster than is acknowledged by the authorities who should deal with it.”

Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Jare Ajayi, said the terrorist attacks on the Advance Team of President Muhammadu Buhari and Kuje Prison were warning signals to the Federal Government that the terrorist were “not afraid of anyone.”

Ajayi said: “The nature of these attacks should send serious signals to the governments, to the security agencies and indeed to all Nigerians. The one on the Presidential Team seems to be a coded language by enemies of the nation that they are not afraid of anyone notwithstanding the status of such a person. For, it goes without saying that a Presidential Team would normally be fortified. So, for a group to attack such a team must be out of sheer bravado–which unfortunately further exposed how vulnerable our security situation is.”

The spokesperson of the group noted that the attack on Kuje Prisons, like some other attacks that occurred in such areas, “appears to be a statement by those enemies of Nigeria that they can strike anywhere and at any time. For, this Kuje attack, taken together with the fatal attack on a military team in Niger State last month, keeps reminding one of the build-up of the Afghanistan saga that led to the forceful take-over of government in that country last year. Everything needs to be done to ensure that such does not occur here.”

Similarly, Chief Olabode George raised an alarm on the state of insecurity in the country, saying ‘who is in control?’

He declared that it was unfortunate that “we have entered into an area of bewildering uncertainty where no one is in control.”

The statement read: “The sustained threat from rogue states, international terrorism, violence perpetrated by religious extremists and the moral confusion arising from liberal views of all kinds, beg the question, what is happening to our country, Nigeria, and the world?

“We sense that we have entered into an area of bewildering uncertainty where no one is in control. There is a fault line in our world, a deep vulnerability that many people express. These short comments are enough for the wise.”

SDP blasts FG over nation’s security challenges

Meanwhile, National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, also described the Federal Government as a disaster over its inability to curtail security challenges in the land.

In a chat with Vanguard, Gabam lamented the sorry state of affairs in the land, noting that criminal elements had become so daring that attacking a prison in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, did not pose a threat to them.

His words: “The attack on the President’s convoy on its way to Daura is an indication that these terrorists are very daring. It shows the government is completely overwhelmed and in its characteristic arrogance, will not seek help from other countries. We are only consoling ourselves everyday because the Buhari-led government is incapable of delivering on its promises.

“Prison facilities all over the world have some layers of intelligence because the inmates are people who committed crimes against the society. How was it possible for such a facility to be attacked without the nation’s intelligence bodies having a hint about it? What is this telling us as Nigerians? This government has failed and does not have what it takes to provide quality governance to the people. If you cannot secure the people, why are you the head of a government?”

Military approach, good governance, keys to tackling Nigeria’s insecurity, says ex-Army General

Also reacting to the security situation in the country, former Chief of Staff at the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps Centre, Brig-Gen Saleh Bala, retd, called for a concerted military approach to tackle the wave of insecurity in the country.

Bala made the recommendation, yesterday, in Abuja at a roundtable on Security Sector Governance and Countering Radicalism, organized by the West Africa Development Radio, WADR.

According to him, due to the widespread and protracted violence caused by terrorists, “concerted military and law enforcement approaches are of necessity to provide for necessary stability that will enable the deployment of more comprehensive, sustainable and enduring political, social, economic and broader development strategies to the challenges.

“Indeed, because of the cross border, and internationalized nature of violent extremism and terrorism, regional strategies that conform to global policies, strategies, structures and practices are fundamental for success.’’

Bala, however, noted that one of the drivers of violent extremism in the Sahel region was tied to bad governance.

Police over stretched, can’t protect the people —Akeredolu

On his part, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State lamented that the Nigeria  Police Force was  over-stretched, understaffed and lacks the capacity to adequately secure the people.

Akeredolu, who stated this while hosting the new Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 17, AIG Yunnus Mohammed Akeera in Akure, said:  “The fact that a single police command in Abuja cannot adequately secure the country has led to the demand for state Police.

“As you know, the Zone 17 is probably one of the newest.

“When the zone was created the state government had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. When we got you a location, we had to renovate it.

“We do not run away from the fact that the Police is over-stretched. The same thing, we do not run away from the fact that a single police command in Abuja will not be adequate to police the large populace of the country. This has led to our demand for state police.

“We can complement each other. I have had senior police officers who agree on state police. Maybe they can’t say it in the public. Go to Ekiti and even here in Ondo State, most of the police stations have no vehicles.

“Look at the unfortunate incident that happened in Owo. Police said they had no vehicle to pursue the perpetrators.

“Let us all sit down and agree that we should have a system that will create division of labour.  We can have the federal police and then, the state police. You can face up major tasks like intelligence gathering and pass it to the state police to work on.

“What is happening, if not for lack of intelligence people will not go to Kuje and attack the place in Abuja. We need your cooperation too in this our cry for a dual police system that we can work together.’’

Nigeria reaping from consequences of nepotism-based appointments — Ohanaeze

Reacting, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said a situation where critical appointments like security chiefs were made, based on ethnicity instead of competence and capacity, the result would always be such that were happening in the country.

The apex Igbo socio-cultural body, reacting to the attacks through the National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia, said: “It is one of the consequences of nepotism. What do I mean by nepotism? That is where sentiments of ethnicity override competence.

“How can the security architecture or the service chiefs of the country be residing within one ethnic group? They were not interested in competence but how related to the President they are. That is part of the problem.

“When Ohanaeze was telling the President to spread the appointments based on competence, he narrowed down everything to his ethnic group. This is one of the consequences, it is very unfortunate. It shows how porous Nigeria is.

“Nigerians will next year choose their President based on competence and not on sentiments of ethnicity and religion. What is happening in Nigeria is governance problem.”

Security, intelligence system have failed— PANDEF

On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, yesterday, lamented that the attacks were proof that the nation’s security and intelligence system had failed.

PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Ken Robinson, who spoke in Port Harcourt, said: “It is unfortunate that the nation’s security architecture has been compromised and criminals, terrorists and bandits freely and easily do whatsoever they like.

“It is shameful that these criminals will go to the Federal Capital Territory as it is reported, operate, and carry out action for three hours undisturbed and free prisoners. And carry out massive destruction of property.

“It is unthinkable and all that we have heard is a statement from the presidency. Few days earlier, the president’s convey or his advance team was attacked in his own state of Katsina.

“Obviously, PANDEF for long has been saying that the nation’s security system and intelligence system have collapsed. The nation’s security system is obsolete, it is outdated and no matter how you change personnel at the top bring a new IGP, sack all the services chiefs and bring in new people the situation will continue because it is about the system.

“The country has got to a point when it can no longer run this mono, unitary security system. Again, there is need for the restructuring of this country, not just the security architecture.

“There is no need we should continue to have security in the exclusive legislative list of our constitution.  The security system should be divested to the federating units.’’

Nigeria has no govt— MBF

Also, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, lamented that Nigeria had no government in place.

The National President of MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, while reacting to the two incidents in Makurdi, said: “The attack on Kuje prison and the attack on the President’s convoy is so disappointing and it means that the security control is totally lost by our government.

“It is just like an indication that we lack government in place; because the Kuje prison is at the Federal Capital of Nigerian. For whoever and for whatever reason to come and attack that facility for over an hour, in fact some people are saying close to three hours, and release the Boko Haram commanders who were all there, without any challenge from the security agencies, is a total failure of our security.

“It means that what the Zamfara State governor had advocated for the people to arm themselves, though unconstitutional, is like the right way forward because our federal security system which we all depend on has collapsed and nobody is safe anymore.

“As far as I am concerned and I believe majority of Nigerians are concerned, we do not have a government in place. We have lost it.

“Nigeria has become a pariah state and has lost it in terms of security. The constitutional provision has totally lost relevance since the responsibility of government and its existence as contained in our constitution, is the provision of security and welfare for the people that have all been lost.

“So it is an unfortunate situation. We can only pray that God will help us to reach 2023 when we may have a government that has the semblance of government to run the affairs of the country properly.”

FG begins probe, launch manhunt for fleeing inmates

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has stated its resolve to investigate the circumstances which led to Tuesday night’s terrorist attack on the Kuje Medium Security Prison in Abuja, in which 879 inmates, including terrorists, escaped.

Vowing not to spare the rod should any form of complicity be established, government added that it had placed all security checkpoints in the country on alert, while currently combing areas within 100 kilometres radius of the prison.

Also, the government said it had begun a manhunt for inmates who escaped from the facility during the attack.

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Abdulrauf Aregbesola, in a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Sola Fasure, noted that the security officers on duty had fiercely engaged the invaders and inflicted heavy casualty on them.

“Regrettably, given their unprecedented number, they overpowered the officers on duty. One of the security personnel that engaged the attackers was unfortunately killed. May his soul rest in peace! Calm and normalcy have since been returned to the Centre,” Aregbesola said.

According to him, preliminary investigation indicates that the Boko Haram terrorists may have been responsible for the attack.

He added that the Prisons Service, in conjunction with other security agencies, were working to bring back the escaped inmates.

On measures taken to forestall Tuesday night attack, Aregbesola explained that after the Abolongo, Oyo State, attack on a prison facility in October last year, “it became apparent that a new form of attack for which our system was not prepared for had emerged.

“Our system was primed to prevent and foil internal disturbance and riots, not external attacks/invasion, since the facilities were usually built around police and military formations.’’

Aregbesola said he had consequently directed that the Nigerian Prisons Service urgently worked with other security agencies to fortify all prisons in the country and insulate them from future attacks, among other measures.

“We are working with the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the National Security Adviser as well as other intelligence and security agencies to ensure that the attackers and the escaped inmates are captured and returned to custody.

‘’As we speak, security personnel are combing the whole area, up to a distance of 100 kilometres radius, looking for them. All checkpoints nationwide have been put on alert. More than 400 of them have been brought in and more are still coming.

“We appeal to all residents to be calm but vigilant. Security is a collective work between government and the citizens. Kindly, therefore, report all suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest security agency around you.

‘’We appeal also to doctors and medical workers to treat and then immediately report anyone with gunshot wounds to the law enforcement agency.

“The minister has directed that all prisons in the country be fortified; that all personnel be vigilant and alert, to avoid a recurrence.

“The minister has directed that full investigation into the incident be carried out and he should be briefed as soon as possible. If any complicity is established, the Minister has promised that appropriate actions would be taken.

“The minister has pledged to continue to strengthen all correctional facilities and keep our people safe at all times,” the statement added.

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