The source added that the inmates included hardened criminals, kidnappers, armed robbers and condemned criminals waiting for execution.
“Suffice it to say that the bulk of those who fled Owerri correctional centre are hardened criminals,” the source added.
This is coming as the Federal Government asked the International Criminal Police Organisationto be on alert and on the lookout for the inmates who escaped in the recent jailbreaks in Nigeria, including the Owerri.
The government added that the Nigerian immigration Service had also been issued an alert, noting that the data of the inmates were being compiled and would be sent to the relevant organizations in batches so as to fast track the manhunt.
1,844 inmates escaped from the Owerri Custodial Centre on Monday when some unidentified gunmen broke into the facility with the aid of explosives. The gunmen also attacked the Imo State Police Command headquarters, where about 600 suspects were freed from custody. They set the facilities on fire and some vehicles around the area.
Despite persuasion and assurance by the Federal Government that they would be granted amnesty from fresh prosecution if they returned to the facility, on Wednesday, the NCoS disclosed on its website that 84 inmates had returned to custody, those who voluntarily returned and those brought by their relations, traditional rulers and religious leaders.
The Punch reported that further investigation revealed that about 1,780 inmates were on the loose, while only 35 inmates didn’t escape during the attack.
On Friday, NCoS authorities published on its Twitter handles the names and pictures of 36 of the fleeing inmates.
Meanwhile, following the escapees’ refusal to return to the custodial centre, the NCoS disclosed that it was compiling the names and pictures of the fleeing inmates to be forwarded to the NIS to prevent them from leaving the country and INTERPOL to track those who might have left the country.
The NCoS spokesperson, Francis Enobore, a Controller of Corrections, said the service would seek the assistance of the two agencies in arresting the escaped inmates.
Enobore on Friday disclosed that, “We are putting the list together, we would definitely seek INTERPOL and NIS’ assistance.”
Asked how soon they planned to do it, Enobore stated, “Like the ones we are processing now, we want everything to be comprehensive so that we send them at the same time. We also realise that waiting for the list to be comprehensive before sending may also slow down the manhunt, so these batches that are coming up would be sent for local searches at motor parks and other places but everything would be uploaded to the (INTERPOL) platform.”
From investigation, it was about 3,471 inmates, who are now part of society, escaped from three custodial centres. Some of them are said to be serving jail terms for various crimes, including murder, armed robbery and kidnapping while hundreds are facing trial for different crimes.
According to Punch, the official figure obtained showed that 1,780 inmates of the Owerri custodial centre were still missing, and 600 suspects released from the Imo State police headquarters by the gunmen. But on Friday, the NCoS released 36 names and photos of some of the fleeing inmates.
Also, it was learnt that many inmates who escaped from the Oko and Benin custodial centres in Edo State during the violence that erupted after the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums in October 2020 had not been apprehended till date.
Official figures obtained by Sunday PUNCH indicated that 1,780 inmates of Owerri custodial centre were still missing, while about 600 suspects were released from the Imo State police headquarters by the gunmen. The NCoS on Friday released 36 names and photos of some of the fleeing inmates.
Meanwhile, findings showed that many inmates who escaped from the Oko and Benin custodial centres in Edo State during the violence that erupted after the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums in October last year had not been apprehended till date.
While 1,161 inmates escaped from Oko custodial centre, 530 absconded from the Benin custodial facility.
Confirming this to our correspondent on Saturday, the senior NCoS officer who said, “the number of dangerous inmates on the loose now is 3,471,” describing the fugitives as “hardened criminals who are capable of compounding the security situation in the country.”
The officer expressed worry over the number of condemned criminals who cannot be accounted for till now.
The source said, “Those who released these dangerous inmates didn’t know they are creating problems for themselves and the nation by their action. It is a stupid thing to do. It is like cutting off your hand because you are not happy with your finger. Many of those who escaped from the Owerri correctional centre are convicted kidnappers and murderers and the fear is that they would likely go back to their violent ways and even commit worse crimes.”
Meanwhile, security agencies including undercover intelligence operatives have been combing communities in the South-East and other parts of the country in search of the fleeing Owerri inmates.