Technology can help to prevent or reduce the spate of jailbreaks in the country, writes Temitayo Jaiyeola
On July 5, 2022, terrorists broke into Kuje prison in Abuja and freed some 600 inmates after an onslaught on security operatives that lasted for hours.
The rate of occurrence of jailbreaks in the country is increasing. Kuje’s attack was the third on a prison facility in 2022.
From the fourth quarter of 2020 to July 5, 2022, there have been 16 jailbreak attempts. Seven of these attempts have been unsuccessful while nine have been successful, according to SBM intelligence.
These jailbreaks have led to the escape of some 5044 inmates and 32 casualties. According to the data insight firm, a jailbreak in Gomwalk, Plateau State in November of 2021, had an unknown number of escapees, meaning the total number of escaped inmates across the nation is unknown.
There are about 240 prisons with about 70,000 inmates spread across Nigeria, according to the World Prison Brief.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Handbook on Dynamic Security and Prison Intelligence (Criminal Justice Handbook Series), the credibility of a prison system depends on its ability to keep prisoners in custody.
It said, “The credibility of any prison system rests on its ability to keep prisoners in custody—in other words, to prevent them from escaping and from committing further crimes while in custody.
“This is a fundamental activity of prison management as it protects the public from further criminal acts; contributes to giving the public, media and politicians confidence in the rule of law and the criminal justice system; and enables prisoners to benefit from rehabilitation activities provided within the prison system.”
It added that prison security referred to how escapes were prevented and measures that ensured high-risk prisoners were not directing criminal activity taking place outside the prison.
The UN office explained that a crucial aspect of prison security was the physical security of the institution. It stated, “Aspects of physical security include the architecture of the prison buildings, the strength of the walls of those buildings, the bars on the windows, the doors and walls of the accommodation units, the specifications of the perimeter wall and fences, watchtowers and so on.”
According to it, the provision of physical aids to security such as locks, cameras, alarm systems (internal and external), x-ray machines, metal detectors, radios, and handcuffs were important.
It said security required effective systems and procedures, coordinated both nationally and locally. It explained that procedures played an important role in preventing escapes and were regarded as a fundamental aspect of prison security.
It further stated that procedures were becoming critical as the use of advanced technology increased, especially with regard to monitoring CCTV, perimeter security systems, and electronic locking.
Commenting on the Kuje attack, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) through a statement by presidential spokesman Shehu Garba said, “How did the defences at the prison fail to prevent the attack?
“How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed? Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work?”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan added, “Having gone round the facility itself, we are disappointed that there are no CCTVs, something that will record or at least give you a view of what is happening and sometimes record the event.
“Now, this is a medium security custodial centre. How on earth does a centre of this magnitude in the FCT not have any CCTV? It means we can say that all other medium security custodial centres across the country do not have CCTV.
“So, we have asked the Comptroller-General to ensure that the request for CCTV in all the maximum and medium custodial centres across the country is included in their 2023 budget because this is essentially indispensable.”
Because of the frequency of jailbreaks, the minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, had earlier in 2022 told prison staff that they should shoot and kill anyone attempting a jailbreak.
According to him, this would reduce the occurrence of attempts. Speaking at Agodi Custodial Centre, Ibadan, he said, “The most important thing is the security impregnability of this facility. Make this facility impregnable.
“This is a red zone, dangerous zone. Whoever attempts to breach the security here is already dead. He must not live to tell the story. Other people will tell his or her story.
“Any effort to breach our facility is not acceptable. Don’t shoot to injure, shoot to kill. Don’t shoot to disable, shoot to kill. This is a total embodiment of the state to guarantee the security of the people.”
However, according to experts, crude measures would not solve the current spate of jailbreaks. New approaches, including the use of technology as the UN as suggested, are necessary.
“Yes, technology helps to fight all kinds of crimes. If we are trying to forestall it, technology will help. Everywhere in the world technology is used to forestall crimes, it gives insight into what has happened in case of attacks and can also give details,” the Managing Director, Chrema Technologies, Richard Ogbuji, told our correspondent in an interview.
“For example, there has been a jailbreak, and no one can identify those who were involved. What do we need to do? One of the things about a secured city is that if we can have smart CCTV cameras, although we don’t always want to call them CCTV cameras but surveillance cameras.
“These cameras are smart enough to also pick faces, tell when there are potential threats. It is funny that even the surveillance camera can do what we call a ‘mapping out’ of boundaries and can be set to set an alarm when a certain number of people gather at a place,” he said.
According to him, Nigerian prisons only had high fences and physical security without any technological assistance to pre-empt or forestall attacks.
He stated that there should be cameras within the perimeter of the prison and streets. Explaining, he said, “Aside from the cameras, there is something called an intrusion alarm system in security.
“Once there is an intrusion of bandits, armed robbers and criminals, it sends a signal to certain places within the permitter and external security agencies for support. For terrorism, sometimes, you could have all of this, and people will still infiltrate the premise.
“They also put a road blocker system. And once there is a threat, a button is pushed, and the entrance is blocked. No vehicle no matter how heavy can come in. There are good technologies that can be deployed to secure the prison environment and every high-risk environment should have all of this from the gate.
“You don’t want to wait for them to come in. The perimeter should be secured from the gate, and with technology, there is an alarm because it is not enough to know that people are coming or not. Someone has to be able to send an alter outside too.
“Technology can be used, especially with the advent of the Internet of Things; everything can speak to each other with technology.”
Ogbuji, who manages a tech security firm, further stated that while physical security was good, the need for security gadgets was also expedient.
He said that the road leading to the prison’s gate should have vehicle blockage, a pedestrian entrance system, and a camera that could observe movements.
He stated, “Some of these devices can’t just be blown off and will still work. From the pedestrian walk-through metal detector to detect, if there is any metal, you are holding to a vehicle blocker system which automatically blocks you if you are driving in to bomb a place or perpetrate an evil.
“There are some things you can’t still stop, but what happens afterward is that these devices can tell you what happened, tell you the people that came in, and can show what transpired which can help to detect these people and bring them to book.
“Even around the world, these things happen because we can’t really stop terrorism. But with the camera system, which is basic, you can track faces. Also, cameras are getting smarter by the day, they can take facial recognition, and you can do some analytics on the camera from images you get.
“The cameras can store on themselves and store offline. From the reports I have, there has not been an arrest of the perpetrators of this crime because there is nothing to hold them with. It is necessary to call security and technology experts to design security gadgets around the prison area because it has become a place of target and shouldn’t be left with guns, bullets, and mere high fences.”
Another security expert, Jackson Ojo, was less enthused about commenting on the matter of jailbreaks. He noted that the government’s attitude wasn’t encouraging and that the matter was likely to persist.
He said, “Whatever advice given does not matter. It is its application that matters. The government in place now is not really willing to improve the security of lives and properties anywhere.
“So, it is hard to advise a docile government. They won’t apply it. No matter what you tell them, they are unlikely to hear. In a normal clime, the prisons are not supposed to be left at rickety homes. They must be maximally protected because the people in prisons are not happy about their conditions and are always trying to find a way to escape.
“To make sure they cannot escape and no one can invade the place requires human protection and with any other way. These things are available worldwide. There are discreet CCTVs cameras that will not even be installed inside the facility; they will be far away and resemble NEPA poles and the people within the vicinity of the prison will not know that they are being monitored.”
He stressed that the most important security component were still humans and those humans would determine the success of whatever tech is applied to the prison.
According to a report by The PUNCH, N10.02tn was devoted to security between 2015 and 2021 yet different reports indicated that the terrorist that broke into Kuje overwhelmed the security agencies that were stationed at the prison.
Recently, the nation beefed up security around prisons in Katsina, Kebbi, and Zamfara states after reports of an impending attack surfaced.
A lot of things are responsible for the recent surge in the number of jailbreaks in the nation, but experts believe that technology can help to forestall these attacks.