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Nigeria Admits Security Flaws After Jailbreak

FILE - People stand outside the main prison door that was destroyed during the attack at Kuje Medium prison in Abuja, Nigeria July 6, 2022.
FILE - People stand outside the main prison door that was destroyed during the attack at Kuje Medium prison in Abuja, Nigeria July 6, 2022.

The Nigerian government acknowledged security flaws at a jail in the country's capital on Monday, following an attack that resulted in the escape of hundreds of inmates last week.

The jailbreak in Abuja's Kuje area, which resulted in the escape of 879 convicts, has sparked more concerns about a security crisis that has already cost hundreds of lives in Nigeria this year.

The attack is “a fallout of the security challenges” facing Nigeria, according to a spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service.

The escapees included 64 members of the Islamic State West Africa Province terrorist group, which claimed responsibility for the incident.

One of the escapees from Kuje prison was arrested on Monday, Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said, but with at least 400 inmates still on the run, authorities are expanding the search to neighboring states.

Although jailbreaks are common in Nigeria, this is the first time in recent years that Abuja has been targeted amid increasing incidents, leaving many concerned about their safety as the nation confronts a wave of violence blamed on Islamic extremists and armed groups, especially in the north.

“Kuje (prison) is the most fortified in the country,” said Rauf Aregbesola, Nigeria’s interior minister said after visiting the attacked prison. "We had enough men to protect the facility but unfortunately they couldn’t hold their position effectively for defense and that was the reason for the breach."

Even Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was unable to address residents' inquiries about how the assailants overcame the security officers. Instead, Buhari had more questions.

“How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” the Nigerian leader said in a tweet.

Analysts sat rebels are expanding their reach beyond the northeast region to other parts of Nigeria including the northcentral region where Abuja is located.

“There are several terrorist cells already operating in northcentral, northwest and northeastern parts of Nigeria,” said Oluwaseyi Adetayo, security expert and former officer of the Nigerian secret police Department of State Services.

In the wake of the Kuje jailbreak, the Nigeria police said they have increased surveillance and security patrols in the nation’s capital, but many are asking how long before another attack happens.

“The residents in Abuja are afraid, not only in Kuje," said Paschal Obi whose family of five has lived in the Kuje town for years.