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Our Night Of Horror – Kuje Prisons Neighbours Recall Ugly Experience During Insurgents’ Attack On Facility

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Our Night Of Horror – Kuje Prisons Neighbours Recall Ugly Experience During Insurgents’ Attack On Facility

Mr. Joseph Akeredolu, one of the residents who witnessed the warlike occasion said they initially thought it was members of the vigilante group in the area that had embarked on a show of force when they heard the first few gunshots.

Some Nigerian living in Nigeria have spoken about how they were terrified by the attack on Kuje prison.

The Nation reports that just days after the deadly attack on Kuje Medium Custodial Centre in the Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday, many residents of the prison’s neighbourhood are yet to put the nightmarish experience behind them.

For more than two hours, according to some of the residents, the neighbourhood was subjected to fear and trepidation as gunshots and explosions boomed with reckless abandon. Some of the residents who spoke with our correspondent recalled how the community’s peace was disrupted and the once serene atmosphere became a theatre of war.

Mr. Joseph Akeredolu, one of the residents who witnessed the warlike occasion said they initially thought it was members of the vigilante group in the area that had embarked on a show of force when they heard the first few gunshots.

Akeredolu, who lives directly behind the prison facility, said: “I thought it was the vigilante group that was trying to let the people know that they were around, because the whole thing started with a few gunshots.

“But when the gunshots became sporadic and was followed by explosions like it were a movie scene, I then knew that something terrible was about to happen.

“I gathered my family in one room and looked through one of the windows to get a clearer picture.

“It was a terrible experience. The explosions became intense and they were followed by earth shaking bombardments that caused the ground and the gates of our house to start shaking.

“The gunshots and bombings, which began around 10.25 pm, continued for about two hours as sounds of stray bullets were heard on the roofs of buildings. Then we started hearing “Allahu akbar ” Allahu akbar “, meaning “Allah is great, Allah is great.

“At this point, what immediately came to my mind was ‘God, this is not a robbery attack; it is a religious war.’ So I asked my family members to lie down to avoid being hit by stray bullets.

“We also heard the insurgents shouting and running, saying “You want to try us? Come out!”

Also recalling her experience on the dreadful night, Mrs Yusuf Khadijat, a teacher who said she had lived in the neighbourhood for 10 years, said she was at home with her mother and a year old daughter when the incident occurred.

Khadijat said: “We thank God that the situation has returned to normal. Soldiers and prison officials are now patrolling everywhere. But what happened was unexpected and unimaginable.

“I was shocked to the narrow. My husband was not around; it was only my mother. Although my daughter had slept before the attack and woke up only in the morning, it was a nightmare for us. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

“It was apparent that the attackers did not come for us, because they didn’t knock at anyone’s door. No report has been heard that anybody in this neighbourhood was killed, and there was no attack on any building.

“You can see how close our fence and house are to the prison’s perimeter fence.”

Malam Abdullahi Ibrahim, a trader who owns a house in the neighbourhood, said he had no intention of moving out of the house or relocating to another place. He said the security situation in the country requires prayers from all and sundry.

Ibrahim said: “We need prayers in this country because everything is getting out of control. You cannot sleep and be sure that tomorrow is certain.

“People are being kidnapped on the road while on journey, and when you are in your house at night…look at what happened. So we need prayers.

“On that day, I came home early and I was already asleep only to be woken up by heavy gunshots and explosions. I was confused and just didn’t know what to do. But I started reciting some verses in the Koran.

“My wife was showing some signs I was afraid of because she is diabetic. So she was sweating. I asked my daughter and my younger son to stay with her inside the room.

“So I looked out through the back window and there were sounds of gunshots and explosions.

“Nobody thought it was Boko Haram because it had never happened. We thought it was a serious fight inside the prison and maybe some of them wanted to escape. Then after about two hours, everything died down. But we heard some people shouting “Allah is great, Allah is great”.

Ibrahim and Akeredolu also said there was no evidence of attacks on the residents by the insurgents that attacked the prison. Akeredolu noted that because they came in large numbers and operated unchallenged, if their mission was to kidnap residents, they would have packed so many people.

He said because they came with sophisticated weapons and in large numbers, the security personnel were overpowered and some of them ran away. He said he noticed that some people had moved out of the neighbourhood while some others were planning to do so.

He however said since normalcy had returned to the area, he would remain there.

Mrs. Remi Adeshola, who lives very close to the prison area, told our correspondent that she, the husband and their children could not sleep on the night of the attack, saying it looked like a movie scene as they saw bullets flying everywhere.

Her words: “It was terrible. When I heard the first shot, I told my husband that it sounded like a gunshot. That was around after 10 in the night. But my husband said it was the transformer that blew, because after that, the sound continued.

“It was when we started listening and hearing series of gunshots that we knew that it was not the transformer that blew. It was then that we started putting off the lights and looking for our children to lay them on the floor.

“That dreadful sound continued until about 3 o’ clock the following morning when they stopped shooting. At some point the sound was coming from almost every angle within the area.

“Surely, those that attacked had planned the attack. It was massive. The shooting would stop at some point and after some seconds, it would start again.

“For me, I was shocked but not so much because of where we lived in Kaduna before. But these also were not just gunshots; they were combined with bombs and other massive weapons.

“At some point, my husband and I saw the terrorists because we were piping through the window. Since it was dark, we could see the bullets. And we also saw the terrorists while they were running and we knew they were not the usual ones we use to see.

“Initially, I thought it was a case of kidnapping. It was just confusing for me and my husband. They operated for more than four hours and we are still in shock in this area.

“The gun battle lasted for four hours and there was no response from anybody. It was two hours after the gun shots had stopped that the first helicopter hovered round the area. We did not sleep so I can tell you how it all happened.

“Right now, my children are with my parents in town because the shock affected them, especially my little baby.

“Till now, I still stand beside the window to see if I would see someone running by the bush path. My husband is always asking me what I am doing there. It is not something I will come over in a while. But by the grace of God, I will come over it.”

Another resident, Alilu Adams, who lives inside the prison barracks and also operates a Point -Of-Sale (POS) machine, said it was only God that saved him from being killed by the invaders.

Adams said: “I operate a POS around here and I live inside the prison barracks.

“Normally, I do fetch water in the night because of my business. I resume at 6 am and close around 7 pm. On that fateful day, I wanted to go to the mosque because I came back late, but something was telling me don’t go.

“A few minutes later, I had a gunshot and I immediately told my sister that it was a gunshot. Later, after series of the sound I was hearing, I knew that they have started using machine gun and other weapons.

“One of my solider friends called to confirm the attack and I told him it was true; that we needed help. He called their headquarters so that they could send more men over.

“One of my neighbours was coming from the junction where he had gone to buy bread. He ran into them and they shot him in the leg. He is still in the hospital. Even the NSCDC officer they killed, I know him very well.

“My sister was even suggesting that we should run when the situation was tense but I discouraged her from doing so in order to avoid more trouble. We started praying.

“What really scared me the most was when I saw them and I was hearing there Muslim songs. I knew immediately that it was Boko Haram attack. We kept praying until the tension was reduced.

“It was then that we could calm down and later my sister’s husband arrived. It was not funny.”

Security has since been beefed up at the prison facility.

A source revealed that the terrorists have written a letter to indicate their plan to attack the headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) on Airport Road, Abuja after they successfully carried out their mission in Kuje.

The source also claimed that external security operatives had been deployed to take over from the regular security operatives at the gate to avoid another attack.

A woman, who was not sure of the whereabouts of her husband, was seen rolling on the floor and at the entrance of the prison, demanding to see her husband dead or alive.

The woman who was not forthcoming with her name said the authorities did not allow her to see her husband.

On the way out of the security challenges in the country, Akeredolu suggested that government should put the right persons and personnel in positions where they will do their jobs, saying there should be no sacred cows.

He advised the government to collaborate with traditional rulers and religious leaders on the sharing of experiences and information. He said with collaboration, it was possible during the night of the attacks on the prison for people to call other communities to come to their assistance as they were under siege.

A retired policeman who gave his name as Isaac said government should track the telephone conversations of senior security operatives on the attacks, saying that what happened was very suspicious.

He said: “There is also the need to monitor the telecommunication system because even some government officials could be saboteurs, especially with the free way and manner the insurgents operated and disappeared.”

Findings made by our correspondent revealed that normalcy has returned to Kuje Prison and its environs. Soldiers and other security operatives are also patrolling while the access road to the back of the prison through which the insurgents gained entry has been blocked.

Our correspondent on a visit to the Kuje community also noticed that people had started going about their normal business with a bit of traffic congestion in the town, which is about 45 kilometres away from the city of Abuja.

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