Explainer: What Is Happening In Kuje

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On Tuesday evening at about 10:20 pm, explosions and gunshots were heard from the direction of The Kuje Custodial Centre located in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. The situation resulted in pandemonium among residents of the Kuje Area Council who confirmed that the attack was real. At least one person has died in the attack, with three others injured.

How Did This Happen?

At about 10:20 pm, what was suspected to be a high-tech bomb went off at the Kuje Medium Prison Facility, closely followed by two more explosions and sporadic gunfire that sent residents fleeing for safety. 

Though the Nigerian Police Force is yet to release a formal statement on the incident, a spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service, AD Umar confirmed the incident and assured that the situation was under control following the intervention of security agencies. 

In this statement, Umar said, “I wish to confirm that about 2200hrs, some yet-to-be-identified gunmen attacked the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory however, men of the Armed Squad of the Nigerian Correctional Service and other security agencies attached to the Custodial centre have responded and calm has been restored to the facility and the situation is under control.”

About 600 inmates were said to have escaped, however, with the joint efforts of security agencies, over 300 inmates have been rearrested. The Kuje prison is famed for holding over 900 inmates, including high-calibre convicts and suspects such as former ministers and governors. Currently, Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba state and Farouk Lawan, a former member of the House of Representatives are both inmates at the Kuje Prison.


The Abba Kyari Angle

There has been some controversy regarding the whereabouts of the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari after the attack on Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, where he was held. However, the spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Centre Umar Abubaker insisted that Abba Kyari is not missing and is still in the Kuje prison. 

On March 28, 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the transfer of Kyari to Kuje Correction Centre. The transfer order was given by Justice Emeka Nwite after the bail application by Kyari and his co-defendants were rejected by the court. On the 7th of March 2022, Kyari was arraigned alongside four of his colleagues as first to fifth defendants in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/57/2022. The five of them were arraigned along with Umeibe and Ezenwanne on charges bordering on alleged conspiracy, obstruction and dealings in cocaine worth 17.55 kilograms.


What Are The Implications?

This is not the first time a Nigerian correctional centre will be attacked by gunmen with the intention of releasing inmates. On April 4th, 2021, the Owerri prison was attacked, with gunmen freeing over 1,844 prisoners after gaining access to the facility. The attackers engaged the Owerri prison guards in crossfire before eventually storming the prison. 

During the #EndSARS protests which took place in October 2020, more than 1,900 inmates were said to have escaped from Oko prison in Benin City, Edo state after it was attacked.  In 2021, an estimate of 4,000 inmates from various holding facilities across the country was recorded to be on the loose according to The Guardian.

With the repeated attacks on correctional facilities and thousands of inmates unaccounted for, the situation definitely raises concern. Nigeria is currently experiencing the highest level of insecurity in its history, with various regions of the country facing different security challenges.

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