On 15 February, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, raided a prison in Koton-Karfi, Kogi State, killing a security man and freeing their colleagues who had been held in the facility
Local sources said the attackers, numbering over 20, stormed the prison on motor bikes around 7 pm, immediately after the Magrib prayer. They shot a security man at the gate, killing him instantly. They then blew up the main gate of the prison with an Improvised Explosive Device and went inside.
While shooting to scare any prison officers that may have thought to challenge them, they freed some of their detained colleagues. After the gunmen had left the premises with their members, other prisoners also took advantage of the situation and escaped. The sources said the entire operation lasted about 30 minutes. The number of Boko Haram suspects freed, and of other prisoners that subsequently escaped, is not yet known.
This is Boko Haram’s third attack on a prison in the last 18 months. On 7 September 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen attacked the prison in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, enabling the escape of 721 out of the 759 prisoners then held in the facility, mostly suspects arrested after the sect’s uprising in July 2009. Again on 22 April 2011, Boko Haram gunmen broke into the jail in Yola, Adamawa State, and freed 14 prisoners.
On 18 January, a Nigerian, Mr Amamchukwu Chukwuma, 28, who killed his Singaporean lover, Angela Liu Shuhui, 25, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The High Court, presided over by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, heard that Chukwuma entered Singapore on a social visit pass to explore business opportunities in October 2007, but stayed on illegally after his pass expired in February 2008. Also known as Ben, he was said to have started his relationship with Angela, then a cashier in a supermarket, almost as soon as he arrived the country. The affair was turbulent from the onset.
The court was told that in April 2008, the two lovers rented a room in Bukit Panjang, but that the landlord evicted them when he could no longer put up with their constant quarrelling.
In September 2008, Angela moved back to her parents’ home, while Amamchukwu made a makeshift home with wooden boards and newspapers in a forested area in Bukit Panjang Park, in order to remain close to her. In June 2009, he acted on a plan hatched by Angela to cheat a Filipino maid of her money, successfully duping her of about 2,000 Singaporean dollars.
Between August and September 2009, Amamchukwu found out that Angela was seeing another man. That discovery wrecked their relationship and they went their different ways. Angela left Singapore to India where she joined her new boyfriend. Amamchukwu resumed a relationship with another woman from Malaysia, known as Siti, and moved into her flat in Boon Lay.
In mid-December 2009, Angela returned to Singapore. She called Amamchukwu and they met on 22 December. After he retrieved his old clothes and photos that were still in her home, he suggested they go to his former makeshift home in the nearby park.
But as she lit the path in the forested area with her mobile phone, Amamchukwu scolded her, sparking a quarrel, and then a scuffle. After Angela kicked Amamchukwu in the groin, he retaliated by strangling her to death. He removed her clothes and burnt them, and then sold her mobile phone.
Meanwhile, Angela’s boyfriend in India had contacted her father, claiming that Amanchukwu had kidnapped her, and the matter was reported to the police. Seven days later, Angela’s highly decomposed body was found. Shortly after, police traced Amanchukwu to the flat of his other (Malaysian) woman, Siti, in Boon Lay, and arrested him.
Before Amamchukwu was sentenced, his lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong, had pleaded with the judge, that a jail sentence of 10 years or less would be appropriate, considering the “grave and sudden provocation” by the victim, “which deprived him of his self control”.
Justice Lee accepted that the murder was not premeditated and that there was some degree of provocation by Angela. But he maintained that Amamchukwu had “intentionally (caused) her death and cruelly snuffed out” her life. In sentencing Amamchukwu to 12 years, he said there was a need to “balance retribution and rehabilitation”.
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”.
On 22 June, Sheikh Muhammad Awwal Adam Albani, the Zaria-based cleric accused of masterminding a bombing incident last April, was released on the strength of a bail granted him by a high court; but his lawyer reports that he was re-arrested by police as he stepped out of the prison in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State.
Albani, a well-known Islamic teacher, had been arraigned in court on 13 June, charged with “criminal conspiracy, act of terrorism with intent to commit culpable homicide and mischief through explosives”. The cleric was charged along with three other persons who had been arrested in connection with the 22 April bomb blast in the Rafin Guza area of Kaduna, in which one person was killed. He pleaded not guilty.
On 21 June, a Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Tukur Mu’auzu granted him bail on the condition that he produces two sureties who must have N5 million naira each or property in the like sum, and that he deposits his travel documents with the court.
His lawyer, Suleiman Umar, said the cleric had met all the conditions and was released, but that the police promptly re-arrested him as he stepped out of the prison.
Umar said: “We met all the bail conditions of the High Court around 5.pm and I took the bail paper to the prison officials in order to release him, which they did. But a few minutes later, the police re-arrested him at the gate of the prison”. He added: “The police were waiting for the cleric outside. As soon as they saw us coming, they approached us and took him away. They did not present any warrant of arrest to us”.
Suleiman said they would file a motion on notice at the High Court today (22 June), in order to re-process the cleric’s release.
The police could not yet be reached for their confirmation at the time of writing this report.
On 26 May, gunmen suspected to be members of the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, killed an un-named prison officer at a private school where he had gone to pick his children after school hours, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The incident occurred around 1pm in front of the Innovative Private School at Bolori area of the city. Local sources said the prison warder had driven in his official car to the school along Baga road and was in the process of taking his children home, when the killers struck. Numbering about three, they arrived at the school on two motorcycles, after probably trailing him from his office. The officer had already picked up his three children, but his assailants ordered the kids out of the car.
Initial reports had said the attackers first shot him and then set the car and his body ablaze. But the Borno state prison comptroller, Usman Maina Kaina, along with some witnesses said the gunmen locked the officer inside his car, and then blew the car up with an explosive device. The blast sent many people in the area running for their dear lives, while the car went up in flames.
The Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Borno State Police Command, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Lawan Abdullahi, confirmed the incident to newsmen, repeating earlier calls to the public to be vigilant.
About four prison officials have been killed in Maiduguri this month (May 2011). Security authorities believe they were all killed by Boko Haram.
The Comptroller of the prison, Mr Andrew Barka, said the number of the escapees was yet to be ascertained, but other sources report that 14 bolted while six were gunned down and re-arrested by the police.
Local sources said the jail break occurred while some prison officials were observing the Friday afternoon Jumat prayers at the Yola Central Mosque, just adjacent to the prison facility. The prisoners, numbering about 40, apparently took advantage of the lean security at that time of day, and overpowered the two warders that were guarding the second gate of the jail house.
But as they matched out triumphantly, they were accosted by vigilant anti-riot policemen stationed outside the prison. The policemen shot, wounded and captured six of the fleeing jail breakers, while at least 14 others reportedly escaped.
Some sources say the inmates involved in the jail break were apparently the members of Boko Haram who were brought into the Yola prison earlier this year.
It will be recalled that in September 2010, over 700 prisoners escaped from Bauchi prisons, after it was stormed by members of Boko Haram. On 4 January 2011, some inmates attempting to break jail, rioted at the same Yola prison, but were effectively beaten back by the police. However, the state Comptroller of Prisons had denied that the incident had any links to Boko Haram.
On 20 April, the Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Mr Ibrahim Mohammad, reported that four people were burnt to death in their houses, and 42 inmates let loose from the prison in Malumfashi, during the riots that followed the presidential election results, in Katsina State.
Providing a comprehensive report on recent violence in the state, the police commissioner said that in Malumfashi, about 11 houses including Governor Ibrahim Shema’s Campaign Organisation’s office, the homes of the chairman and secretary of the local government council, and the private houses of some chieftains of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were burnt down. Ten vehicles were also set ablaze. The prisoners escaped when the rioters broke into the jail house and drove the prison wardens away.
CP Mohammed said in Funtua, the rioters destroyed or burnt more than seven vehicles, restaurants and private schools.
In Kankara, the rioters set fires to the house of the ex-chairman of Kankara local council, Mamman Sani; the PDP office in the local government; a vehicle parked in the council boss’ house and Governor Shema’s campaign office.
The CP said 15 churches were razed down: Five in Funtua, four in Daura and three in Malumfashi.
The police boss reported that over 107 persons had been arrested in Malumfashi, Funtua, Daura, Kankara, Jibia and Katsina metropolis, in connection with the attack on the prison and the destruction of public and private property. Mohammed said one of the suspects, Abddulkadri Yahaya, 28, while trying to escape arrest, grabbed a pot of boiling groundnut oil from a roadside bean cake fryer, and hurled it at the police officer, Lawal Sani Dansada, who was pursuing him. Dansada is presently in hospital.
The Police Commissioner said those arrested would be charged to court once investigations are completed.