New Telegraph

February 26, 2024

Correcting the Correctional Service

P resident Bola Tinubu should be planning a total overhaul of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) following startling revelations by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Chris Musa, before the House of Representatives about links with Boko Haram.

Musa, in defending the Armed Forces’ efforts to eradicate insurgency in the North-East, had indicated that some officials of the NCoS benefited from the insurgents through transactions with their bank details.

The strange cooperation between criminals and those who are supposed to keep them in check during maximum detention, probably explains why the war on terrorism continues to drain the resources of the Federal Government, with the corollary loss of lives.

The CDS is in a position to understand how terrorists operate, having served in various capacities in the troubled North-East. He was Commander, Sector 3, Operation Lafiya Dole, Commander, Sector 3, Multi National Task Force in the Lake Chad Region and Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai.

It is an open secret that some freed members of the Boko Haram group confessed that they were in constant communication with their commanders while in confinement in custodial centres. This disturbing development often led to jail breaks across the country.

The most prominent was the July 5, 2022 attack of the Kuje Prison in Abuja which freed 879 inmates, leaving five dead and many injured. That invasion, despite early security warnings, was swept under the carpet by the previous administration and no one was brought to book for the embarrassing security breach.

We are surprised that the Controller General of the NCoS, Haliru Nababa, has continued in that position despite the intriguing lapses that occasioned the Kuje incident. The immediate past Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, was speechless.

Aregbesola had made adequate security arrangements that involved the Army, Civil Defence and NCoS. Unfortunately, 20 hours before the terrorists opened the gates of the prison, the soldiers were withdrawn. No explanation was given for that questionable decision.

Curiously, the operation lasted for hours, in the Federal Capital Territory. Not even the Brigade of Guards was called in to lend much needed support in curtailing the jailbreak. The import was that if the terrorists wanted to take control of Abuja, there was no resistance whatsoever.

Although federal authorities claimed that many of the freed inmates were either recaptured or turned themselves in, there was nothing to suggest that top Boko Haram commanders who dropped their chains and fled the detention centre were ever found.

Names like Usman Abubakar Muhammad, the man who assumed leadership of all Boko Haram inmates, Yakubu Abdullahi, Muhammad Sani Yellow, Isma’i Yusuf and Mustafa Umar, simply walked back into the bush to continue terrorizing innocent Nigerians.

When compatriots expected to hear from the NCoS that plans were underway to bring the Boko Haram commanders back in jail, the paramilitary agency was only glad to announce that high profile politicians, former governors Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, did not flee with the other inmates.

Gen. Musa did not mince words in indicting the NCoS. Nababa and his Public Relations team have not come out forcefully to deny the allegations. This is not time to talk about redeploying those involved. They all need to be prosecuted and face the full weight of the law.

It also calls to question the capability of the Controller General who was appointed in 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari. There were criticisms of that elevation which took the Senate quite some time to confirm.
Nababa had served in Yobe and Adamawa states, where Boko Haram fighters registered formidable presence. He is, therefore, well positioned to defend his organisation. Failure to put up a more convincing argument will further diminish his reputation.

While we salute Gen. Musa for exposing collaborators within the system, nothing will be achieved if these revelations are not properly managed and steps taken to weed out Boko Haram sympathisers from the NCoS. The country has lost bright officers and men of the Armed Forces due to enemies pretending to work for the common good.
The NCoS needs a new broom at the top. A Controller General, who could do nothing when the well-fortified Kuje Correctional Centre was invaded and has been unable to breathe fresh air into the paramilitary agency, deserves a place elsewhere.

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