The number of inmates who were killed or injured during a riot on Friday, October 10, at the Kirikiri Medium Prisons, Lagos, has yet to be determined as conflicting figures continue to emerge. An inmate, who preferred anonymity that the inmates had embarked on a planned protest because of the increasing restriction on their ‘freedom.’
He added that the number of inmates shot during the riot was near 30, while some of them could have died, and been ‘secretly’ buried.
He said, “It was not a riot. We planned a protest, and it was in view of the increasing restrictions on our freedom. We want a change in the management of the prison.
“That was what we were protesting when it escalated into a riot. At least 30 of us were shot, but I cannot tell the number of those killed.”
However, the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Prisons Service, Lagos State Command, Mr. Biyi Jeje, said only one inmate died during the riot.
He added that seven others were injured in the riot which began after the seizure of a ceiling fan belonging to an inmate who is the pastor of the Pentecostal denomination of the prison.
Biyi said, “We didn’t record any casualties except that one person died during treatment. He was an armed robbery suspect awaiting trial. There are two people left at the hospital. Seven people were injured, but have been treated and some discharged.
“What happened was that someone brought in a ceiling fan for an inmate referred to as the ‘general-overseer’ of the prison’s Christian Pentecostal denomination. But the fan was seized by the officer in charge of the prisons because there was no approval for the gadget being brought in.”
The Minister for Interior, Abba Moro, who visited the prison on Sunday, explained that the ‘unrestrained freedom’ given to inmates and the issue of prisons’ congestion necessitated the riot.
Explaining the government’s position on the matter, Moro said there would be a review of institutions of worship in the Nigerian prisons.
He said, “From the information made available, the immediate cause of the riot was that an inmate came unauthorised and installed some gadgets without the knowledge of the officials.
“What it meant therefore was that a convict, who brought in some gadgets, instigated the inmates to complain and that led to the fracas. But, the police and other security agencies have intervened and calmed down the situation.
“More fundamentally, there is a need for us to think about the level of freedom the inmates enjoy, especially compared to the level of international practices. The two gatherings representing the inmates are the chapel and the mosque. Christianity is Christianity, and in the world over, one worship ground is usually provided for the inmates. The prison services must review the institutions of worship in our prisons.”
The minister further lamented that a large number of inmates were those awaiting trial rather than the convicts.
He said, “What also comes to mind is the state of facilities in some of our prisons. It requires some level of rehabilitation. At the moment, we have the issue of congestion, and it is very unacceptable that we have a prison which is accommodating 2,536 inmates. Out of this number, only 98 are convicts. We have 2,434 inmates awaiting trial.
“When we finish our assessment, we will be able to address the problem of congestion in our prisons.”