A major fire has engulfed in several buildings inside Kuje prison, Abuja. The fire reportedly started around 10:45 am.
A group calling itself the Prisoners Against Injustice in Nigeria (PAIN) has claimed responsibility for the fire. PAIN made the claim in a handwritten statement posted on the prison notice board before it was hurriedly removed by the prison authorities.
PAIN said the attack was meant to draw the attention of the world to the pathetic state of prisons and corruption within prison services.
The terse statement described the recent death on Tuesday, June 27 of Samuel Mba, an inmate awaiting trial but remanded in Kuje prison for the past four years as the last straw. The group blamed Mr. Mba’s death and that of many other inmates on gross negligence, corruption and the lack of basic medicines and equipment to treat emergencies and routine health challenges.
PAIN said that in spite of the huge annual budgetary allocation to the Nigeria Prison Service, inmates must buy medicines through prison staff and seek funds to treat serious conditions in healthcare facilities outside the yard. Those who are unable to afford health services are left to their fate, with many dying.
PAIN described the prison clinic building as a carcass housing non-functional equipment to deceive visitors. They said the dead equipment served only as ornaments and storage shelves.
PAIN also said they burnt down the overcrowded cells to ensure that spacious replacements ideal for human habitation is built.
The group also blamed Nigeria's criminal justice system, adding that there was a different law for the rich and influential, and another for the poor masses. "Corrupt politicians who have looted the treasury only spend a few days in prison and are given special treatment while the poor man who stole a mobile phone is awaiting trial for years without bail,” said PAIN. The group added, “While corrupt judges have never stepped their foot into the cells as inmates, their trials are speedy and they have not been made to face the same fate they have subjected so many others too,” the group added.
"The affected buildings are the moribund Clinic block, Custody 2, which is the congested home to 153 Awaiting Trial Inmates, Convicts block (custody 3) where 322 inmates are crammed into, and Custody 4, another Awaiting Trial block where additional 306 inmates are packed in like sardines."
PAIN stated that a total of 781 inmates have been displaced, adding that the situation should get the attention of the judiciary to accelerate trials and grant bails where applicable.