No fewer than 240 inmates of the Kabba Correctional Centre in Kogi State have escaped following the invasion of the facility by gunmen.

The invasion, which happened around midnight on Sunday, left two soldiers manning a checkpoint about 59 metres away dead, while another officer was seriously wounded during the shootout.

The spokesman for the Nigeria Correctional Service, Mr Francis Enobore, in a statement on Monday said the attackers arrived at the custodial centre heavily armed and immediately engaged the guards in a fierce gun battle.

Enobore added that the Comptroller-General, NCC, Haliru Nababa, had ordered a recapture procedure to be activated, as well as detailed investigation, as he led a team to assess the situation.

Earlier, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 8, Ayuba Ede, confirmed the invasion adding that the fleeing inmates were being trailed.

An eyewitness said the gunmen also sprayed bullets on an uncompleted building where the soldiers normally hibernate before they broke into the correctional centre and released over 100 of the inmates.

The eyewitness said some of the correctional officers on guard were injured, while one of the soldiers, who made an attempt to flee, was hit in the leg.

Our correspondent learnt that three of the fleeing inmates were arrested in Kabba while trying to board an Ilorin bound-commercial vehicle.

The Kogi State Government, in a statement by the state Information Commissioner, Kingsley Fanwo, said, “We can confirm that some gunmen attacked the Kabba Custodial Centre but investigations are still on to ascertain the number of inmates, who escaped from the centre.

“We also lost two security operatives. That is the number we have at the moment.”

The commissioner said the state Security Adviser, Commander Jerry Omodara (retd.),  the state Commissioner of Police and the Commander, Army Records, Lokoja, had visited the centre.

Fanwo stated, “Security agencies have zeroed in to ensure that 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 has led to the re-arrest of the majority of the inmates, who escaped, and some have also come back to the centre on their own.

“Security agencies, traditional rulers and local hunters are working in synergy to restore normalcy.”

Also, the Media Advisor to the Minister of Interior, Sola Fasure, in a statement said,  “The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has been briefed by the Controller-General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, on the unfortunate attack on the Kabba Medium Security Custodial Centre, in Kabba, Kogi State, by yet-to-be identified gunmen.”

Security officers on duty, which consisted of 15 soldiers, 10 police officers and 10 armed guards of the NCoS on duty fought gallantly to repel the attack. Regrettably, two officers of the correctional service have yet to be accounted for, while one soldier and a policeman lost their lives.

He said the custodial facility had 294 inmates as of the time of the attack, many of whom escaped.

The statement added, “There remain 28 inmates, who didn’t escape. Some have also voluntarily returned to the facility as of this morning.

“The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, assures the citizenry that Nigeria’s security forces will find the attackers and bring them to justice.  We are also putting INTERPOL on notice with their details in case any of them attempts fleeing outside our shores.”

The minister reminded the fleeing inmates that escaping from lawful custody was a criminal offence, adding that law enforcement agents and the citizens were lawfully empowered to “use all necessary means to arrest and bring them to justice.”

108 fleeing inmates recaptured

Later, Enobore, disclosed that108 fleeing inmates had been rearrested, adding that efforts are ongoing to apprehend the remaining 158 inmates.

He said, “I can confirm to you that now that 108 inmates have been recaptured while 158 others are still at large.”