There are fears that the police formation in Abia State may be infected with COVID-19.

This followed the escape of 29 detainees from a police station in Umuahia, the state capital.

The  Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre  in a statement said that sources in the police confirmed that the incident may have been caused by fear of Coronavirus.

“Reliable sources informed us that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at the State Criminal Investigation Department, Umuahia. The source said the number of affected detainees and police officers are yet to be ascertained.

“Police authorities are reported to be taking measures to ensure that the virus does not spread to other police formations in Umuahia. Our source said samples have been taken from detainees at Central Police Station Umuahia,” the statement said.

The group noted that 20 of the 29 detainees have been rearrested with minimal force but called for an investigation into the incident.

“It is, however, imperative to inquire into the reason the detainees made the escape. It is important to ascertain the categories of offences of the detainees to know if they fall within categories of offences permitted under the IGP's directive to detain accused persons only for major offences. It is also important to ascertain the conditions and security of the cells, the level of congestion in the cell, whether there is maltreatment of inmates and if there's scare of infection.

“It is clear that the refusal by correctional centres to accept persons on trial ordered by courts to be remanded in prisons has forced judges and magistrates in Abia and other states to order the remand of defendants in police cells thereby creating challenges for the police with regards to complying with the directives by the IGP to ensure decongestion of police cells.

“This has led to breaches of the IGP's directive that arrests and detention should be minimised to only major offences,” the statement added.

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