By Fisayo Soyombo
Last week’s Ikoyi ‘prison break’ was not a premeditated jailbreak. It was prompted by corruption, exacerbated by pent-up tension among images over the burning of the Igbosere court and sealed by inmates’ desperation to escape from the chaos they’d caused.
How it happened, a warder popularly known as ‘Pastor’ had seized a phone from an inmate in D Ward. One account has it that ‘Pastor’, who is also the Yard Master, extorted the inmate but refused to release the phone.
Another is that ‘Pastor’ seized the phone and told the inmate who owned it to settle him, else his cell would be changed.
Whichever was the case, an inmate’s phone was seized and ‘Pastor’ wanted money (or more money) to release it.
I know for a fact that even though inmates are prohibited from owning phones, warders smuggle phones in for them. For a fee, of course.
At times, the warders even buy the phones themselves then resell to inmates at exorbitant rates.
Meanwhile, inmates were still enraged by the torching of Igbosere High Court the previous day. Their thinking was that as a consequence, their trials would be delayed by months; they were tensed up. Their response to ‘Pastor’ was bellicose.
In the process, ‘Pastor’ slapped an inmate, the inmate returned the slap. Some prison warders intervened, but the inmate had started kicking ‘Pastor’. Other inmates joined.
The environment soon became so raucous that ‘Pastor’ fled to Records office.
Soon, inmates were crowding out and beating the warders.
While some of them went after ‘Pastor’, the Deputy Controller of Prison (DCP), who doubles as the Officer in Charge of Ikoyi Prison, tried to calm others down.
One inmate confronted the prison ‘Chief’, the warder directly overseeing inmates, saying the whole prison would have been burnt down were it not for the DCP who had been “nice” to them.
Chief slapped the inmate, the inmate retaliated!
For context, the average warder-inmate relationship in Ikoyi is a master-slave one; an inmate slapping a warder is like a security guard slapping an Aliko Dangote. The result was always going to be catastrophic.
By this point, inmates were already beating some warders & throwing stones at them. Meanwhile, Chief sells kerosene, stored behind the office leading to his.
The inmate that was slapped by Chief got angry, picked a keg of kerosene, opened it & threw it into the Records.
Other inmates lit a fire.
The first place burnt down by the irate inmates was the Records. After that, they burnt the school, legal office, E Ward, Yard Master’s office and a shop next to welcome cell where odds and ends were sold.
Seeing the damage that had been done, the major actors tried to escape. As expected, some others tried to profit from it by attempting a jailbreak.
The situation was eventually quelled after the DCP called for armed reinforcements.
Although the prison has been silent on the deaths, four separate sources, including one in government, have spoken about multiple deaths.
While the government source refused to disclose the number, instead of concentrating on his concerns about the cover-up…
…the other three put the casualty toll at “over 50”, “53” and “56” respectively.
Indeed, the last two said the casualty toll could even be a lot more, as their figures were based only on the bodies they had they had personally sighted.