On 7 August, at least 7 prisoners escaped from the Maximum Security Prison in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but police re-arrested two of them.
A statement from the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Police Command, Mr Ben Ugwuegbulam, said: “The Deputy Comptroller of Port Harcourt Prisons reported a jail break in the prisons”.
“Reinforcing police teams responded swiftly and arrested two successful breakers, Egbe Gboh, a convicted kidnapper and Anthony Akanimo, awaiting trial for kidnap. Twenty three others who attempted to escape were also held inside the prison”.
The police spokesman further stated that “breaking was achieved by the use of iron beds as ladder to cross into Bundu and Abuja waterfronts. Order restored and patrol sustained”. He added that police was sustaining its patrol of the area and that a census of the inmates had commenced, while investigation continues.
However, prison sources put the number of prisoners still at large at five. A prison official said: “The five escapees are dangerous criminals, notorious militants. We appeal to the public to assist us in re-arresting them”.
A statement by the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, signed by his spokesman, David Iyofor, urged residents and visitors to Port Harcourt not to panic, as the situation had been brought under control.
The Port Harcourt prison, built by British colonial rulers in 1918, has several decrepit structures, which serve as cells, infirmary, workshops and staff offices as well as gallows for executing condemned criminals.
In March 2011, the head of the Rivers State command of the Prison Service, Comptroller Babalola Jerome Ogudana, told the Lagos-based Daily Independent that the prison, originally built to accommodate 804 inmates, was then housing over 3000 inmates, and that 2663 of these (89 per cent) were still awaiting trial for their alleged crimes.
The Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), a non-governmental organisation promoting human rights and non-violent community empowerment in the Niger Delta, quotes released inmates as saying that: “Conditions inside the prison walls are nightmarish. Serious overcrowding coupled with a serious lack of resources means inmates sleep in filthy conditions, amongst their own faeces”.