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Nigerian Prisoners Die in Attempted Jailbreak

Prison authorities in Nigeria's southwestern city, Ibadan, are investigating Tuesday's attempted jailbreak. At least eight inmates were shot dead, as hundreds of prisoners tried to break out of jail. From Abuja, Gilbert da Costa has more.

Prisons in Nigeria are overcrowded and squalid. Jailbreaks are frequent.

Etannibi Alemika, a criminology professor and head of a presidential panel, which reviewed prison conditions, this year, says Nigerian jails are horrible.

"All the circumstances should actually precipitate violent prison riots all over the place, rather than just attempts to escape from the conditions," said Professor Alemika. "Because the conditions are obviously horrible and not much has been done, in terms of physical development, human resources improvement, and fast justice administration process. And there is an increasing population of very violent offenders who have been there for many years and are desperate."

Most of the 45,000 prisoners in Nigerian jails have never been convicted of any crime by the country's inefficient legal system.

Alemika blames the police and the judiciary for what he describes as the dumping of alleged offenders into prison.

"The problem is not with the prison. It is at the point of intake; that is the police process, judicial process," added Professor Alemika. "As long as you have this wide net that gathers all kinds of things and dump them in the prison, you will have prison congestion. Even if you are to release all of them [inmates] today, in four months the prisons would be full again, because of the practices of the gatekeepers, like the police and the courts."

Tuesday's riot was to protest poor medical facilities at the prison. The Agodi prison, built for 500 inmates, had about 700 prisoners.

The prisoners overpowered their guards and attempted to escape. Police opened fire.

Last month, at least two prison inmates were killed and 20 others injured, after violent clashes with prison guards and police over a foiled jail break in Kano.