Mass Prison Break as Hundreds of Inmates Escape

Gunmen have reportedly fired upon soldiers and freed hundreds of prisoners in Kogi State, northern Nigeria.

Ayuba Edeh, the assistant inspector-general of Police Zone 8, has reportedly said the state commissioner of police and other heads of security agencies are now attempting to regain control at the scene. Newsweek has contacted Edeh for further comment.

The jailbreak is thought to have occurred at a medium-security federal correctional center in Kabba.

In as-yet unverified reports, local media outlet Vanguard states gunmen numbering "in their tens" led the attack against the prison center, situated on the Lokoja highway.

The armed prison break operation is thought to have commenced on Sunday night and lasted through to Monday morning, resulting in the deaths of an unspecified number of military men guarding the perimeter, before attacking the center itself.

Mass Prison Break
Stock photo shows prisoner's hand. Hundreds of prisoners have reportedly escaped from a medium-security prison in Kogi State, northern Nigeria Mario Tama/Getty Images

The gunmen, whose motivation at this time remains unclear, are thought to have next targeted the prison officers before proceeding to "set all the prisoners free," Vanguard reported.

The audacious plan is thought to have been assisted by unseasonably heavy rain early on Monday morning, leading to the prison complex housing the inmates reportedly "submerged by floods."

Several local media outlets, which have also been contacted by Newsweek, have reported approximately 100 of the inmates freed by the gunmen have since been rearrested.

Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said in a statement on Monday: "During the attack, security officers on duty which comprised of 15 soldiers, 10 police officers and 10 armed guards of the NCoS [Nigeria Correctional Service] on duty fought gallantly to repel the attack.

"Regrettably, two officers of the Correctional Service are yet to be accounted for, while one soldier and a policeman lost their lives during the attack."

He added the Kabba Custodial facility had 294 inmates as at the time of the attack, many of whom escaped after the gunmen used explosives to destroy three sides of the perimeter fence.

Some 28 inmates did not escape, while some have also voluntarily returned to the facility this morning.

One uncorroborated photo has emerged on social media showing a man appearing to stand guard looking through a large hole knocked through the wall of the prison.

The poster of the picture, who Newsweek has contacted, has added the wholly unsubstantiated caption "Fulani bandits kill soldiers on duty, set all prisoners free in Kogi prisons."

Fulani Bandits Kill Soldiers On Duty, Set All Prisoners Free In Kogi Prisons

— Chibueze Uchem (@MrUchemChibueze) September 13, 2021
An uncorroborated photo purported to be from the scene of the prison break

A 2021 report by the Premium Times described northern Nigeria—the scene of today's attempted prison break—as "the homeland of Nigeria's indigenous Fulani people, [...] the epicenter of herdsmen terrorism."

Should the reports, much of which remain unclear, prove to be accurate, this will not be the first time a mass prison break has been attempted in Kogi State.

Another prison, the Koto-Karffi federal medium-security facility, was attacked in November 2014 by unknown gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

This resulted in approximately 144 prisoners, thought to be mainly awaiting trial for robbery, escaping from the prison, while one inmate was shot and killed during the counterattack.

Twelve inmates were eventually returned to the prison to serve the remainder of their sentences, while 45 escaped prisoners were recaptured in due course.