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Kuje Prison Break - Is This The Breaking Point? Dr Nasir Aminu

July 7, 2022

The President's last sentence provided a clue to his security subjects that he expects a comprehensive report on this shocking incident – the Kuje prison break.

The prison break of Kuje is the ninth since October 2020 across the country. That means, on average, a prison break occurs every nine weeks in Nigeria. While prison breaks are happening, other deadly terrorist attacks keep happening in the country. 

On the same day as the Kuje prison attack, the Presidential convoy was attacked on its way to Katsina. Some of the military personnel in the fleet were shot and wounded. President Buhari's Tweet on the Kuje prison break did not mention the attack on his convoy. The statement was unsurprising. It was in the usual tone with emotions, sadness and prayers. Buhari's comments did not change the country's temperament in any way. 


The insecurity situation in Nigeria remains a dark cloud for everyone connected to the country. But, as the saying goes, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Buhari's tweet may have translated a sliver of hope. He asked a critical question – How can terrorists organise, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it? It is a question that everyone has been asking since the rise of insurgency in the Northern province of the country, the rise of militancy in the Niger-Delta and secession agitation in the South-East region of the country. If anyone can help the President with clear objective answers, I believe we will solve half of the problem if the question is answered. The President's last sentence provided a clue to his security subjects that he expects a comprehensive report on this shocking incident – the Kuje prison break.

In a sane society, such comments would be relieved that an immediate cause of action would be implemented. But there is no optimism that this will happen. The lack of optimism is that it is very unlike this government to demand accountability for failure. The recent Abuja-Kaduna train attack had raised alarms, with several key government figures blaming each other for the failure. But it looks like it was done for the media show only because we have not heard anything from the issue since. The attack, the ones before it, remains a mystery, with many victims still in the hands of the terrorists. The government chose to suspend rail transportation indefinitely. The Kaduna State Governor, el-Rufai, used the opportunity to displace an entire village, contributing to the socio-economic issues in an already fragile state and region. 

The point here is that an objective investigation would have been carried out in a sane society, and the outcome would be made public. If the government is incapable of such actions, it would have been good to see the Ministers taking the initiative. The should be a time when the leaders take a step back and draw a line. For example, the Ministers of the UK government understood that their Prime Minister could not continue to remain in power, and they demanded he resigns. They realised he was incapable and incompetent, and 59 Ministers tendered their resignations to force the change in government. It is understandable that, in such societies, people are more interested in maintaining their integrity and are not afraid of losing relevance. Their resignation is a cost they paid to save their democratic system with little thought for reciprocity.

For Nigeria, it is a lot more difficult for the current government to defend democracy when they are not its best role model. The leaders seem to despise engaging in collective actions; they are more self-serving. They feel resigning from a government position is an option. Doing so will lead to losing relevance in society. We have seen it with the Central Bank's Governor and some Ministers during the party primaries.

Ethically speaking, it is in the interest of the people and the country to not continue like this. And if people should find themselves in a compromising situation, moral conscience should govern their decisions. The Nigerian society must accept that integrity matters more than remaining relevant in a failed system. Everyone who supports failure is complicit. The Ministers, Governors, Security Chiefs, and even the Vice-President always try to explain the government's failure by saying their hands are tied. But it seems their hands are only tied when it is about serving the people – they actually have free hands whenever it's about self-service.

It will be good if the public uses Buhari's statement to hold the government to account. The success of this will mean the next government will not be able to use such behaviour as a governance tool. 

Sometimes the public can get it wrong, and it goes without saying for Nigeria in 2015 when the country desperately needed a change. The conventional wisdom is that countries led by self-serving leaders without integrity eventually become unstable unless they are changed. Having Buhari at the helm is a drawback, but, on the bright side, a democratic government is a self-correcting system.

If Nigerians were to elect a government like this again, they would not reconsider their actions and policies. That is because they cannot recognise or learn any lessons from the past seven years. They are not going to change. 


Dr Aminu - Cardiff Metropolitan University