More Than 100 Inmates Break Free From An Old Nigerian Prison After Heavy Rains

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — More than 100 inmates escaped from an old and decrepit prison near Nigeria's capital after overnight heavy rains destroyed parts of the facility, a prison official said Thursday as security agencies searched for the fugitives.

An hours-long downpour late Wednesday destroyed the perimeter fence of the medium-security prison in the town of Suleja, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Abuja, resulting in the escape of 119 inmates, prisons spokesman Adamu Duza said.

The prison service and other agencies recaptured 10 of the escaped inmates and were searching for the rest, Duza said.

The one-story Suleja prison, with cracked and defaced walls, had 499 inmates, about twice its capacity of 250, according to Nigeria's Interior Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who led a government delegation to the facility after the breakout.

“This shows that we need to relocate a lot of our correctional centers ... to create better space, better security and better infrastructure,” the minister said.

New steps would be taken to secure the prisons "and make sure that this doesn’t happen anywhere else in Nigeria,” he added.

There were fears the fugitives could find their way into the vast forests that connect Suleja with neighboring states, some of which are known hideouts for criminal gangs.

In addition to being overcrowded with 70% of the inmates still awaiting trial, most prisons in Nigeria are old, having been built during the colonial era before the West African nation’s independence from Britain in 1960.

The structures are rarely renovated, which has made it easier for inmates to escape during past jailbreaks. Thousands of inmates have escaped from prisons during such jailbreaks, including in Abuja where nearly 900 inmates broke free in 2022.