The escapees, five in total, have been in custody right inside the state police headquarters believed to be the most secure detention facility in the state. But according to sources, the criminals, including suspected armed robbers – among them, an accused already standing trial for robbing a shopping mall of about N20 million – broke out of one of the cells and escaped under cover of night.
The runaway criminals were said to have cut the iron bars on the window of their cell, before sneaking out of the headquarters. Unseen, the suspects reportedly made their way away even as some of them were handcuffed.
The source hypothesized that the criminals must have smuggled implements into the cell with which they used to saw the iron rods on the window, while suggesting that the operation must have been carried out in the daytime, during working hours, when noise and activities were high enough to stop them from being discovered.
Although the issue was the last item to be revealed to the press during a conference by the then state police commissioner, Mohammed J. Gana, it appeared top police hierarchy in the state command were serious about it. The former CP disclosed to journalists that some of the armed robbers who escaped were “dangerous” and have been terrorising the state for long, until they were hunted for more than a year and apprehended.
The CP noted that the criminals must have staged the successful cell break with the connivance of his men, who were detailed to guard the cells, adding that eight officers have been rounded up in connection with the incident. Like the members of the public, the former police boss expressed disbelief at the possibility of “dangerous criminals” staging a successful escape operation.
Among the fugitives was one Nafi’u, popularly known in the state as Fir’auna, whom the police had recently arrested with a gun and paraded to newsmen. Fir’auna was said to have held the residents of Hotoro community to ransom with his criminal activities, even though his house is located a few meters from the police headquarters and barracks of the police division in the area.
The suspect is notorious for foiling several attempts by security agents to arrest him. Some months back, he reportedly defied dozens of policemen who went to his house to apprehend him by pitching himself on the roof of his family’s one-storey building from where he pelted the police with stones. The officers later withdrew.
However, one suspect whose escape news left people in the state terribly stunned, is an alleged armed robber who took part in a robbery operation in Jifatu Stores shopping mall recently. He was alleged to have carted N20 million from the store, before he was arrested and charged to court subsequently. But on the orders of the Chief Magistrate, before whom he was standing trial, the accused person was returned to the cell for further investigation.
Though Gana gave an unclear answer by suggesting that the detainees had possibly connived with the guards who facilitated the breakout, he did not say whether monetary inducement was involved.
Gana’s successor, Muhammad Tambari Yabo, was asked by journalists during his maiden media interaction in the state on Wednesday, on why only the junior cadre were nabbed for negligence of duty, when they have superiors who should have also been reprimanded for the serious lapse. He responded by pointing out that it was the duty of the officers manning the cell to ensure that suspects kept under their custody do not escape.
But importantly, Gana said the police have already conducted orderly room trials for the 8 officers, after which they were given seven days ultimatum to produce the runaway criminals or face penalties that may include dismissal. “If they are arrested, maybe that may reduce the punishment,” and he promised: “After one week, you will see what is going to happen to these policemen.” But so far, none of the escapees has been rearrested.
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