Kuje Prison Attacked Residents of Kuje Area Council in Abuja, who witnessed the Tuesday incident on the prison in the area, have recounted their experiences.
Witness reported how Boko Haram terrorists stormed the Kuje custodial centre (prison) Tuesday night.
The terrorists, using high explosives and guns, breached the facility, leading to the escape of over 800 of the 994 inmates on Tuesday night.
The witnesses reported that an NSCDC officer was killed during the attack while four inmates were also killed.
The spokesperson of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Umar Abubakar, on Wednesday, said over 400 of the escaped inmates have been recaptured while 443 are still at large. Another 16 inmates who sustained various degrees of injuries are receiving treatment.
The 64 Boko-Haram members previously held in the Kuje Prison Attacked were released by the invaders and are still at large.
Just like the prison authorities, residents and witnesses in the community hosting the facility who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, put the number of the attackers at over 100.
How it happened – Residents
Chukwuemeka Micheal, who lives behind the custodial centre, said Tuesday night was one of his scariest moments as an adult.
Before the attack, Mr Micheal and his friend had noticed an unusual presence of unknown groups of men sitting at different positions and smoking along the street where the prison is located.
He said he was worried about the situation but believed everything was in place because of the presence of the facility.
Given the proximity of his house to the prison wall, Mr Michael said the sounds from the explosives were like dynamites. He said he heard the sounds of explosions three to four times during the attack.
“It happened around this area here because we were outside waiting for bikes to take us out because my house is behind the prison here.
“Some guys were there smoking around the prison area. They were there smoking and enjoying themselves. Then my friend told me that we should start walking out because he does not understand what is going on there. I told him ‘no, let’s wait for the bike.’ It was not up to minutes after he told me, we started hearing gun shots and so we ran,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
Contrary to the account of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Shuaibu Belgore, Mr Michael added that the operation lasted for over two hours.
“I slept under my bed, the military man that was on the road entered my house. He removed his uniform and hid the guns. They (the guns used by the assailants) are like machines, they are way faster than the normal ones Nigerians use,” he said.
“It was directly entering the compound even our street was covered with bullets and gunshots and all these things. It was so terrible we couldn’t believe it. We thought a situation like this would end quickly! They started from nine o’clock till like 12 midnight. It was really serious. Soldiers couldn’t even do anything, they were running,” he added
Corroborating Mr Michael’s account, another resident who asked not to be named, said the area was unusually filled with strange faces on Tuesday night.
“Around the prison border, some officers suspected fishy activities going on around. So, they called one to question him. I don’t know whether he was questioned or not. So I think eventually the person we saw that came was a spy for them,” he said.
Except for workers and a few journalists, some curious residents who gathered at the entrance of the prison were not allowed to enter.
Some of them told PREMIUM TIMES that the attackers came from the riverside in the area.
“From that riverside, They share themself, when this one shoots a gun some people will also raise their gun. And what I heard also was that people also came here just to shoot guns in the sky to just scare people. So the operation lasted for about two to three hours,” one resident said.
He said before the attack ended, some inmates were seen walking majestically through the bush parts while others without “guide” had to run on their own.
The terrorists were ‘kind’ to assist other inmates with N2,000 as transportation fare to their destinations, one resident said.
“They gave N2,000 each to the prisoners that escaped and there was someone amongst the prisoners who was shouting Allahu Akbar repeatedly
“There was a man they rescued, who couldn’t escape and wanted to return the money. He was the one that told people the amount they gave them,” he narrated.
Living in fear
Charles Onuchukwu, a resident, said he had recovered from the shock but his family members are still in fear.
Mr Onuchukwu said his aged mother-in-law, a hypertensive patient who lives with him, was rushed to the hospital in the early hours of Wednesday.
On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari visited the Kuje Prison Attacked to review the situation. He expressed disappointment that the security officials at the prison could not prevent the attack.
However, the Kuje jail break is just one of many recent jail breaks across the country. That the Kuje incident offured despite similar jail breaks in places like Kogi and Edo States suggests the government is unable to protect its prisons.
For residents of Kuje, however, they hope no such incident occurs in the facility anymore.
Isa Afegbua, a resident, said the experience is a traumatic one for the younger ones in his home.
“My wife is still recovering but we hope such things don’t happen again,”