From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, disclosed on Thursday that there has been another attempt to break into another of the country’s correctional centres, following the Kuje prison break of July 2022.

The minister did not disclose the correctional centre in question.

More than 400 prisoners went missing after the Kuje correctional centre attack last July. Four inmates, a security guard and several attackers were killed after the prison was targeted.

Asked what is responsible for the unprecedented number of prison breaks in the country, the minister remarked: “It is the season. Don’t say ha! I know you don’t want to hear it. Have we had what we are having in Nigeria today before? It is the season and it’s global.

“Why are we having assassinations in America? Bad as it is, it is horrible but in America, people get killed every second. In California within the last week in America 20 people have been killed, did you ask why? It has nothing to do with technology, it could even be linked to climate change.

“When things are hard, people who cannot manage their own stability resort to those types of things. You can’t say there is no terrorism in Nigeria, we are managing it. You can’t say there is no banditry in Nigeria, we are managing it. It is because of the level of insecurity in Nigeria and we are arising from it. It is as simple as that.

“The question you are asking, you know the answer. There is tension. Nigerians, just like the rest of the world were kept incommunicado for 90 days straight. Let’s not look at COVID-19 alone, the remaining 120 days were on and off. Don’t you think that those things will have an impact on society?

“And in any case, how to assess as a government is this: What did you not do? As of today, there’s no single inmate in our facilities that is not captured biomedically and that is the best we can do. We’re still working on DNA, which is another way of identifying them. We have met with all agencies and institutions that can use biometrics; we have to trace and arrest them. They are doing their best. The most effective agency in capturing them is still the police force. They are doing wonderfully well.

“The technology that we expected will be effective in capturing them is not as effective. Like I would normally tell people, they can only run they cannot hide! If they go out of circulation for now but because they cannot change their biometric, whenever they come out they will be exposed and therefore arrested if they have not died.”

On what is being done to ensure the facilities no longer come under such attack, Aregbesola said: “So, we are doing the best we can to ensure, one, that it will be difficult for anybody to attack our facilities. You may not know that some had attempted and we have sent them back to their maker. Just take it, it is no longer game as usual. We are equipping our men to defend those facilities. And those sister agencies are equally upping their capacity to protect and defend our facilities. And we’re improving the design of our facilities to make them almost impregnable.

“So it’s sad, we are not happy that the facilities are… but it’s a function of the season and we will be deceiving ourselves if we don’t admit it. There is this popular maxim from school: ‘Tell no lies, claim no easy victories. Is not mine. So we are up to it. So, whoever attempts to dare our will, will not live to tell the story.”

Asked how many are still missing, he said: “Many. There are very many. For details, the CG will tell you but if I say many, it doesn’t mean… what’s essential is what steps did we take. None of the inmates of our facilities either awaiting trial or convicted are without their biometric capture…If we have your biometric you are exposed. There is no international airport that you will go to today where you will not have photographs of all these people. They are on our website, papers carried them, and they are on social media platforms. So, what I am saying is this, it is our collective efforts. If we’re all committed to it, in no time, we’ll get them back, every government is patient, government is more patient than the vulture because government is not tired of desperation and government will only cease to be when the world ceases to exist. For that reason, they will be identified, apprehended and brought back to where they should be.

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“One of them attempted to be too clever. After realising that he has one more month to stay, returned by himself. He thought with that we just leave him to go. No. We have taken him back not to where he escaped from but to another place. We have taken him to the magistrate court, and we charged him for fleeing from lawful custody. That is a separate charge. He is not going to be free from what he has done, he will spend every day he escaped from the correctional centre as a given punishment. He had thought that by coming back he will only stay for one month and be released.

This is to tell you that we are not as lax as you assume. We are taking every step to ensure that whoever attempts to dare us will pay squarely for it.”

For infrastructural upgrade, the minister said: “There has been massive infrastructural upgrade across Custodial Centres since the inception of this administration.

“112 new Custodial Centres have been built in some places; 20 new cells have been added in prisons where space allows; and old cells have been renovated to improve living conditions in most custodial facilities.

“The construction and renovation of Custodial Centre walls and perimeter fences have also enhanced safety and security in and around the centres.

“The Buhari Administration has also taken a bold step to improve the standard of Custodial Centres in Nigeria by embarking on the construction of a 3000-capacity ultra-modern Custodial Centre in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.

The one meant for the North West sited in Janguza, Kano State, has already reached 90% completion.”

Aregbesola also said that the massive exodus of Nigerians out of the country in search of greener pastures is fueling high demands for passports.

He said this at the 64th session of the State House Ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, at the Aso Rock Villa.

Aregbesola said in 2022, the Immigration Service issued the highest number of passport booklets totalling 1,899,683 in over seven years.

In the same vein, the

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Shuaib Belgore, disclosed that at least 159 Nigerians renounced their citizenships in 2022 alone.

He added that 150 Nigerians renounced their citizenships between 2006 to 2021.