No fewer than 240 inmates of the Kabba Medium Custodial Centre, Kogi State escaped when gunmen attacked the 13-year-old facility late Sunday night.
A soldier and a policeman died in a gun duel between securitymen guarding the facility and the attackers.
The whereabouts of two Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) personnel had yet to be ascertained as of 9 pm yesterday.
Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola and Comptroller-General of the NCoS Haliru Nababa said a manhunt for the fleeing gunmen and inmates had been launched.
Aregbesola added that the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) had been contacted to watch out for any of the inmates that might attempt to flee the country.
Kogi Information Commissioner Kingsley Fanwo said some of the inmates had been re-arrested. He did not give the figure.
The 200-capacity centre located along the Kabba-Lokoja Highway had 294 inmates when the gunmen struck.
Seventy of the inmates were convicted and the remaining 224 were on the pre-trial list.
Aregbesola said in a statement by his Media Assistant, Sola Fasure, that 15 soldiers, 10 policemen and 10 NCoS armed guards were on duty during the attack.
The statement partly reads: “The Kabba Custodial facility had 294 inmates as of the time of the attack, many of whom escaped after the gunmen used explosives to destroy three sides of the perimeter fence.
“However, 28 inmates didn’t escape. Some have also voluntarily returned to the facility.
“The NCoS Comptroller-General is currently monitoring the situation. A tour of the facility is also ongoing.
“A Crisis Response Centre has been activated and a Special Taskforce mobilised to recapture escaped inmates whilst an Inter-Agency Security Task Force is already on the trail of the gunmen.
“We are also putting INTERPOL on notice with their details, in case any of them attempts fleeing outside our shores.
“The minister assures the citizenry that Nigeria’s security forces will find the attackers and bring them to justice.”.
Also, Nababa said in a statement that the gunmen arrived at the custodial centre “heavily armed and immediately engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle”.
He added in the statement by the NCoS Public Relations Officer, Francis Enobore, that investigation had commenced.
The Kogi State Commissioner for Information also confirmed the death of two security operatives.
“Security agencies have zeroed in to ensure those who escaped are rearrested as well as trail the masterminds of the attack.
“We have confidence in our security agencies to unmask the masterminds of the attack and get them apprehended.
“Our security network led to the re-arrest of many of the inmates that escaped as some have also come back to the centre on their own.
“Security agencies, traditional rulers and local hunters are working in synergy to ensure normalcy,” he said
Fanwo asked residents of Kogi and neighbouring states to volunteer information that could lead to the arrest of the gunmen.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) which described the attack as “a grave threat to Nigeria’s national security,” called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the (NCoS) Comptroller- General.
The group said Nababa’s sack would send a firm message to Buhari’s appointees that “indiscipline, dereliction of duty and all forms of shows- of –shame would no longer be tolerated.”
By Blessing Olaifa and Gbenga Omokhunu