There is an urgent need for the Nigerian government to invest in an isolated supermax prison for terrorists and other related offenders in Nigeria.
On July 5, 2022, a terrorist attack on the Kuje Prison freed a large portion of an estimated 1,000 prisoners, including Boko Haram members. ISWAP claimed responsibility for the prison break. The prison lies approximately 27 miles southwest of the Central Business District in Abuja.
Many Nigerian citizens have expressed their fear and anxiety about the prison break. Some put the blame on security agencies, especially the correctional officers and the police for not being proactive, having poor weaponry, and subpar detective technologies. Others blamed the Nigerian government for the failure of the system, and the inability to provide solutions to security challenges in the country.
There are several issues to be corrected in order to prevent these situations in the future. First, our law enforcement agencies should pay more attention to community policing. Second, there is a need to improve the quality of training and retraining on counterterrorism for law enforcement. Lastly, there is a need to build supermax prisons for terrorists and other related offenders.
One of the major areas that our law enforcement agencies should improve and focus on is community policing, or community-oriented policing. Developing relationships and partnerships with the community members to identify, prevent, and solve problems are imperative to establishing and maintaining trust between law enforcement residents. Law enforcement will be able to rely on accurate information regarding criminal activity from the community, thereby creating a better understanding of the needs of Nigerians and their expectations of the police force.
It is a welcome development that the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, at the 38th Session of the ministerial briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team, revealed that 25,000 constabularies have been trained and deployed across the country for community policing.
Maigari’s idea is a welcome idea, but community policing requires far more than deployment and training – the officers themselves need to be part and parcel of the community. The common phrase “the police are your friends” should be more practical.
The attacks on Kuje prison could have been prevented if there was a cordial relationship established between the residents and the law enforcement agencies.
It is important to emphasize that there is a need for the Nigerian government to increase the budget for police and correctional officer training. Quality training is not cheap – what you put in is what you get.
In addition to the budget, there must be an increase in salary for law enforcement officers, including attractive benefits. Members of the public should also be educated on crime identification.
For instance, terrorists will always rehearse before carrying out attacks. They will also test the security before they execute their plan of attack. Law enforcement agencies should be proactive and participate in advanced counterterrorism training, even if it requires travelling to other parts of the world.
Most importantly, the Nigerian government should build a supermax prison for terrorists and related offenders.
As Aso Rock can secure, a supermax prison for terrorists should be secured at the same level. It is a waste of time, highly discouraging, and more dangerous for law enforcement officers to work so hard to get criminals arrested, knowing there is a chance of them escaping prison.
For instance, in 1983, in the United States, Silverstein and Clayton, members of the Aryan Brotherhood, fatally stabbed correctional officers M. Clutts and R. Hoffman at a United States Penitentiary.
The stabbings took place only a few hours apart and were blamed on inadequate prison design. Federal Bureau of Prisons director N. Carlson argued for the creation of a new type of facility where the most dangerous, uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for security and safety.
USP ADX Florence Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado was opened in 1994, and classed as a supermax or “control unit” prison, providing a higher, more controlled level of custody than a maximum-security prison.
In relation to the Kuje prison break, about 70 hardcore Boko Haram members escaped from the prison, which is more dangerous to our country and national security. I am calling for the development of an isolated supermax prison for terrorists and other related offences.
• Abiodun Ramon Oseni, a former U.S. Police officer, specializes in International Security at Harvard University.