An undisclosed number of inmates on Friday gained entry into the armory of the Calabar Prison , Cross River State, and attempted to escape after a gun duel but were overpowered by a combined team of security agents.
The incident, which occurred at about 11am, was said to have caused pandemonium as residents of neighbouring Afokang, Iman and Jebbs in Calabar South axis of the metropolis scampered to safety during the gun duel.
The Afokang end of the prison fence was broken during the process while two inmates were said to have escaped, but the state controller of prisons, Mr. Clement Udosen, said no inmate escaped.
It was, however, not clear how the inmates gained access to the armory, but it was learnt that a total of 53 rifles were recovered after the incident while one could not be accounted for.
The prison armed squad was said to have been overpowered but they immediately called for reinforcement and the situation was brought under control after 40 minutes of gun duel with the inmates.
An anonymous prison official said about 17 hardened criminals consisting kidnappers, drug barons, ex-militants and armed robbers were brought to the prison two weeks ago.
He said their arrival sent an alert that something untoward might happen.
An eyewitness, Solomon Okoro, said two of the inmates escaped through the broken fence but one of them was apprehended by vigilant youths in the neighbouring Afokang Street while the other escaped.
Okoro said, “We heard gun shots at about 11am. Although gun shots within the prison yard is not new to us, but this time it lasted for a long time. That was how we got to know that there was problem. We stopped hearing the shots and that was when the reinforced team started coming.
“We learnt the inmates exhausted their bullets. At the end of which, the wall was broken, two escaped but one was apprehended by some community youths.”
Reacting to the development, the state Controller of the Cross River State Command of the Nigeria Prisons Service, Mr. Clement Udosen, said no inmate escaped, confirming that they actually got access to the armoury.
He said, “By 11 o’clock in the morning, I was in my office in the headquarters, the DC in charge of this prison called me that there was serious problem in the yard so I came and the whole place was filled with people with rifles, people who had come here to help us, the soldiers, police, civil defence, state security service and others.
“Two of the cells’ inmates organized themselves and overpowered the prison staff and rushed to where we have the armoury, seized the rifles there and went back firing at the staff. In that confusion they broke other cells and the whole yard was filled with inmates. They carried what they could get to break the fence.
“Luckily for now they have all been rounded up and nobody has escaped. A lot of people have been injured and one staff had been rushed to the hospital. Right now the doctors with his team are treating those injured. On casualties (deaths), it is the doctor that would ascertain that because he is treating them.”
“Most of those injured are the inmates. Three of our staff were wounded and one rushed to the hospital. There was no external invasion. It was an attempted jailbreak and luckily nobody escaped. The other security agencies helped us especially the 13th Brigade of the Nigerian Army because they stationed 10 solders here, morning and night and these are the ones that really helped us. They encircled the perimeter fence, as they tried to come out of the hole, the soldiers were there and they could not come out.”