There are indications that several crime suspects including kidnappers, armed robbers and cultists have escaped from the custody of the Edo State Police Command.
The suspects allegedly escaped from the detention facility of the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID) at the command’s headquarters in Benin City.
All the police officers on duty at the SCID during the escape, PREMIUM TIMES learnt on Sunday, have been arrested and detained on the order of the state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo.
The actual number of suspects that escaped could not be ascertained, but sources at the command’s headquarters disclosed that the majority of the escapees are kidnap and armed robbery suspects who were arrested in the past two months after the #EndSARS protests.
A police officer, who preferred anonymity, said the incident happened around midnight on Saturday.
But attempts to get a clearer picture of how the incident happened were not possible as the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Kokumo, neither picked calls nor responded to text messages to his phone.
Also, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, declined several calls on his phone and did not respond to text messages.
However, a Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the state, Ajala Ayoola, who did not confirm the number of escapees, said the incident did not happen on Saturday night.
Mr Ayoola simply told our correspondent to wait for an official statement from the state command for details of the incidents.
“Yes,” he said of the incident occurring; adding, however, that “it is not true that it happened last night (Saturday).”
“Wait for a statement from the PPRO,” he said.
The police source said Mr Kokumo was miffed over the unfortunate incident.
“All the arrested officers and men on duty at the time of the cell break and escape of the suspects would be made to face orderly room trial and must face the wrath of the law,” the source said.
The road leading to the state police command in Benin City has since the end of the #EndSARS protests in October 2020 been cordoned off and restricted to few vehicles.
During the #EndSARS protests, about 2000 inmates in the Benin and Oko Medium Security Correctional Centres escaped after hoodlums attacked the facilities.
The state police command recently constituted a Joint Security Taskforce made up of soldiers, men of the Directorate of the State Services (DSS), the police, and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to tackle the rising crime rate in some parts of the state.
The latest development is coming at a time kidnappers, armed robbers, and rival secret cult groups have laid siege to Benin City and adjoining towns for the past two months.
Residents fear the escape of the suspects could worsen the already dire security situation.
In the last week, at least 10 persons have been reported killed in the wake of a renewed cult war in parts of Benin City.
Armed robbery and kidnappings gave also been on the rise in the state.
Traders and operators of Point of Service (POS) outlets have also been attacked by robbers in the last few weeks.
Female journalists attacked
Meanwhile, a female journalist, Flora Bossey, was on Sunday attacked and robbed by unknown gunmen in Benin City.
Mrs Bossey said she went to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) stand located at the beginning of Airport Road in King’s Square in Benin City and was robbed after she finished withdrawing some money.
It was learnt that the two armed men waited for her to finish the cash withdrawal and immediately swooped on her at gunpoint.
After dispossessing the journalist of her two ATM cards, mobile phones, and other personal items, the thieves drove towards the Airport Road.
Mrs Bossey, a former vice-chair of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Edo State Council, told PREMIUM TIMES that the sight of the gunmen was very scary.
“Thank God I was not injured by the attackers. They only made away with some of my belongings at gunpoint. They took my Zenith and First Bank ATM cards and forced me to give them the secret number.
“I, however, thank God for sparing my life. I want to advise residents of Benin and environs to be wary of the kind of ATM stand they visit for transactions,” she said.