More than 100 inmates escape from Nigeria prison after heavy rains

At least 118 inmates escaped from the medium-security prison in the town of Suleja, in Niger state [Al Jazeera]

More than 100 inmates have escaped from a prison in Nigeria near the capital city of Abuja after overnight heavy rains destroyed parts of the facility, prison officials have said.

The downpour, which lasted for several hours on Wednesday night, destroyed the perimeter fence of the medium-security prison in the town of Suleja, in Niger state, “giving way to the escape of a total of 118 inmates from the facility”, according to prisons spokesman Adamu Duza.

The prison service and other agencies managed to recapture 10 of the escaped inmates. “We are in hot chase to recapture the rest,” Duza said.

“The public is further enjoined to look out for the fleeing inmates and report any suspicious movement to the nearest security agency,” he added.

Duza gave no details on the identities or affiliation of the escaped prisoners, but in the past members of the Boko Haram armed group have been locked up in Suleja prison.

There are fears that they could find their way into the vast forests that connect Suleja town and neighbouring states, some of which are known hideouts for criminal gangs.

In addition to being overcrowded with 70 percent of the inmates still awaiting trial, most prisons in Nigeria are old, having been built during the colonial era before the West African nation’s independence from Britain in 1960.

The structures are rarely renovated, which has made it easier for inmates to escape during past jailbreaks. Thousands of inmates have thus escaped from prisons, including in Abuja, where nearly 900 inmates broke free in 2022.

Duza said the prison service was making “frantic efforts” to modernise its prisons, including the construction of six 3,000-capacity facilities and the revamping of existing ones.

Thousands of inmates have escaped in recent years due to weak infrastructure and militant attacks, notably a July 2022 ISIS (ISIL) attack on a high-security prison in the capital Abuja where around 440 inmates were freed.

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