No fewer than 14 inmates of the Abakaliki Prison in Ebonyi State capital, were feared killed yesterday during a jailbreak bid.
It was the latest in the incidents of jailbreak being witnessed across the country, which has attracted punishment and sack of some prisons officers by the government.
Some inmates yesterday capitalized on the riot that broke out in the prisons to attempt escape which the police said they foiled.
Although the police did not confirm the death of any inmate, sources said they counted not less than 14 bodies.
Some prison officials and inmates were injured during the fracas which degenerated to the point that a weapon belonging to an official was seized by the prisoners. It took the intervention of the police to recover the gun.
It was learnt that the trouble started when prisoners early in the morning revolted against poor treatment and inadequate feeding.
Sources said the angry inmates started rioting inside the prison and used every object within their reach to attack prison officers. Many prison officials were injured. Two of them have been hospitalized, it was learnt.
The deaths were allegedly recorded when prison officials returned fire for the inmates fire.
Apart from the police, soldiers were also drafted to the prison.
Later in the day, soldiers and policemen cordoned off all roads leading to the prison.
Gunshots were heard intermittently after the inmates allegedly succeeded in creating an opening on the prison wall through which they were trying tom escape before riot policemen arrived and tear gassed them into submission.
Because the prison is located beside the police headquarters, it was easy for the riot policemen to be drafted to the scene.
Commander of Abakaliki Military Cantonment and the Commissioner of Police, Peace Ibekwe Abdallah visited the area and directed the operations to restore sanity to the prison. Governor Dave Umahi visited the prison later.
State Comptroller Mrs Oputa Emilia denied knowledge of any death or snatching of gun by inmates
She said only three persons were injured and that angry prisoners broke part of the fence. She said the situation was under control. A source said bodies of those killed were secretly evacuated.
Police spokesman George Okafor also denied that anybody was killed. He said: “There was an attempted jailbreak and the prison officials called in the police. We cordoned off the area and restored normalcy to the area”.