Jos – 29 Nov. 2021: Gunmen on 28 November attacked the Nigerian Correctional Center in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing an Officer according to eyewitnesses.
The gunmen in their numbers stormed the custodial center with heavy gunfire at about 5pm local time, forcing staffers and residents in the surrounding to flee.
An eyewitness living close to the facility said the gunmen broke down the main entrance of the facility with an explosive to gain access.
“They are still shooting inside the yard right now and people are running,” said the panicked resident.
An Officer in the arm squad of the center was shot dead at the entrance according to a staffer. “They came shooting from outside and those on guard duty were the first victims,” said the source.
Several inmates including escaped during the shooting, said the source, but the assailants were trapped in the facility, the source said.
“Six of the inmates we believe the attack was meant to free were gunned down while escaping but the attackers are still inside the yard,” the source added.
Mr. Francis Enobore, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Correctional Service who confirmed the incident in a press statement on Sunday evening gave a parallel narrative, but did not say if any had been arrested.
“The situation is presently under control as the attackers firing power is being subdued by superior fire from a combined team of security agencies,” said Onobore.
“The Medium Security Custodial Centre in Jos, Plateau State came under attack by gunmen who reportedly stormed the facility in large number with sophisticated weapons.
“The invaders were said to have arrived at the Custodial Center at about 1720hrs and immediately made for the main gate where they engaged the armed squad personnel in a gun battle before breaking into the yard.
“Although they gained entrance to the yard, they are however trapped within as men from sister security services were immediately mobilised to assist the armed guards to cordon the perimeter wall and the entire area,” Onobore added.
An internet video said to have been filmed an hour after the invasion shows fire burning on the widely open entrance of the Center but the premises appears empty with no apparent resistance.
The facility which is located in the city’s central area, 2miles from the Headquarters of the Special Task Force (STF) Jos also borders the Headquarters of the Plateau State Police Command and the Department of State Services (DSS) Jos.
But the gunmen invaded the facility with little resistance, and shot for more than an hour before the military intervened.
‘Boko Haram responsible’
The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) reports that suspected Boko Haram terrorists carried out the attack. “Boko Haram terrorists were brought into the correctional centre a few weeks ago,” reports FIJ. “Prison warders are suggesting that the gunmen invaded the prison facility to free the terrorists,” reported FIJ.
Our source who is a Warder however said militants from the Fulani tribe earlier nicknamed bandits by the Nigerian Government were responsible for the attack.
“There were threats the Fulani herdsmen were coming to free their members in detention so we are suspecting they are the ones,” said the staffer.
Bandits who were last week proscribed by a local court last year July attacked a van ferrying some accused criminals to a court on the south of Jos.
Six of the accused identified by Officials as Fulani militants being tried for murders and related crimes were freed during the attack before they were rearrested weeks later. Last April, four of the rearrested inmates escaped from the Jos prison according to Officials. It is however unconfirmed if the latest attack is connected to the last prison break.
But the attack comes two days after gunmen suspected to be Fulani militias killed ten people in a midnight raid on a northwestern town in the Central Nigerian Plateau State on 26 Nov.
200 armed men attack village
200 armed assailants according to eyewitnesses attacked Ta’agbe, a small farming town on the boundaries of Plateau and Kaduna States, killing ten and wounding three others according to locals. 114 houses and 54 food barns were razed in the attack which lasted hours without military intervention. The country’s military has confirmed the attack but said troops were delayed by bad roads.
Militants linked to Islamic terrorists – Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were responsible for the attack said Rev. Fr. Blaise Agwom, the Executive Director of Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Center, a non-governmental organization which organized a peace meeting for Fulani Muslims and Christians in Bassa on 21 Oct. Leaders of the Fulani tribe at the meeting in Jos the capital of Plateau State signed an agreement on behalf of the entire tribe to cease attacks on Christians but survivors of the latest attack say they were attacked by their Fulani neighbors.
A small peaceful farming Taegbe town located 20kms west of Jos was ringed by terrorists armed with AK-47s minutes after midnight, said tribal leader Ezekiel Bini. The attackers speaking Fulani dialect according to Bini shot nine people who were trying to escape – killing six and wounding three, and burned four others to ashes in a house where they were sleeping.
“No of IDPs 674, number of death 10, number of injured people 3, number of household burned 114, number of rooms burned 275, numbers of food barns burned 54,” wrote Bini in a text message.
The attackers who according to Bini operated for close to an hour without military intervention. “The military arrived five hours after the attack,” said Bini. “All calls to the military base located two kilometers to the community were not responded to,” he said.
“We later found that the military checkpoint was deserted at the time of the attack. We had yet to get answers to the sudden disappearance of the military unit Commander when the attack occurred. We are beginning to wonder if the military conspired with the attackers to kill our people who were just struggling to return to their homes after they were displaced last two years,” Bini said.
Six people were killed in the Taegbe town on 14 Oct 2017 by the Fulani under the watchful eyes of the military according to Vanguard newspaper. Vanguard reported on 21 Oct 2017 how the military ignored distress calls during the attack which came a day after the State Government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the LGA.
The curfew according to an official statement was to prevent attacks on Christian villages that had become a daily occurrence since the killing of 25 in Ancha village in the north of the LGA on 7 September 2017 – the anniversary of the 2001 Jos riots which left close to 1000 Christians dead. 29 more were killed on 15 Oct 2017 in a government school occupied by the military in Nkiedoro – 6miles to Taegbe.
The latest attack was carried out by “criminals that are bent on instilling fear, pain and sorrow” in communities, said the Governor of the State – Simon Lalong. In a statement received from his Press Director, Makut Macham on 26 Nov, Lalong said he was outraged by the attacks which he noted were persistent.
Assailants linked to terrorist groups
The attack was carried out by militants linked to Islamic fundamentalist groups – Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), said Rev. Fr. Agwom. “There are criminally minded people who are collaborating with these terrorists to carry out these attacks,” said Rev. Agwom in a telephone interview.
“I strongly believe that terrorist elements have infiltrated our settlements. I remember when we had [similar] attacks in July and August, those who engaged the assailants in battle said the people they saw don’t even look like Nigerians – they [said they] were speaking strange languages.
“I feel there is criminality and there is collaboration with bad elements who are within. Those strange faces – ISWAP, Boko Haram cannot come into our communities without the involvement of insiders,” Agwom said.
Rev. Fr. Agwom alleged that the terrorists are colluding with the military to carry out the attacks.
“They [terrorists] are colluding with the military to carry out the attacks. They (military) make more money when there is chaos. Whenever there is an attack, there is always an allegation that the attackers wore Military uniforms. It is possible that Boko Haram can decide to wear military uniform. Criminals and Bandits also do same. But sincerely speaking, like the last attack we had in Bassa, there was this cry and desperation on the part of the locals for the soldiers to intervene but it was clear that they were not ready to. So one wonders why they are there if people are being attacked just meters from your base and you cannot help them,” he said.
Spokesperson of the Military Task Force in the State – Major Ishaku Takwa however said troops set out to intervene during the attack were delayed by bad roads.
“Our nearest base to the Village is 6km away but the road to the place is too bad for our vehicles. It took us over an hour and by the time we got there, there were already seven casualties and the attackers had left,” he said in a telephone interview.
Agwom’s NGO – DREP Center on 21 Oct facilitated a peace agreement between Christians and local Fulani Muslims who have been blamed for the killing of thousands of Christians in Plateau State. At the meeting, the Fulani agreed to cease attacks but killed two farmers in Ancha village in the same Bassa area on 23 Nov.
Emancipation Center for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN), a non-governmental organization tracking terrorists attacks in Nigeria reported that the two Christian farmers – Mr. Daniel James, 32 and Mr. Zakwe Deba, 35 were killed by gunshots while working in their farms at about noon.
Local Christian leaders had in an article published on Nigeria-Report rejected the peace deal as a smokescreen, intended to tug them to relax their guards for more attacks.