Unknown gunmen have reportedly attacked and set ablaze Owerri Custodial Centre of Nigerian Correction Service and police headquarters near government house in Owerri, Imo state in the early hours of Monday, April 5.
According to reports on social media, the attackers struck the prison and police department shortly after midnight, releasing a yet-to-be confirmed number of inmates and suspects.
In videos of the incident shared online, heavy gunfire also rang through the area, with some Twitter users who appear to be Imo residents saying hundreds of inmates might have escaped.
Senior government officials have been reportedly asked to shelter-in-place due to the proximity of the scene to the government house.
It was unclear how many prisoners escaped, but Amnesty International over the weekend said that the Owerri Correctional Centre had 2,156 inmates as against its installed capacity of 548 people.
The level of destruction and casualty figures were yet unknown, but pictures shared on Twitter showed heavy smokes billowing from the scenes of the attack.
Imo police spokesman, Godson Orlando confirmed the incident, hours after reports had spread across social media with residents across different sections of Owerri reporting hearing heavy gunshots and explosions.
The attack came amid confrontation between Nigerian security forces and members of Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) movement across the South-East.
Since January, there have been repeated clashes between Nigerian troops and IPOB elements in Imo, Rivers, Abia and Anambra, with both sides denying responsibility for civilian casualties.
For the latest incident, those behind the violence and their motive could not be ascertained, as there was yet to be any statement from the government or police, as at the time of filing this report.
See some videos of the incident below;
Police Head quarter near government building in shell camp in on fire. Mayhem and heavy gun shoots in places. Attacks on owerri prison.
Stay safe people pic.twitter.com/ySvs53c7Hg
— Omalicha Nwa (@Anayo_El) April 5, 2021
— Communicator ♚ (@DE_COMMUNICATOR) April 5, 2021
Happening live on owerri.
Seems like prison was broken into. pic.twitter.com/A3HOL9OsOO
— Ọmo Ịgbọ 🌄 (@2CBL) April 5, 2021
Since 2am there were constant shootings till this morning and it has been confirmed that all prisoners have been released as gunmen attacked the Imo State correctional facility. Owerri prisons is empty now. pic.twitter.com/sk3M4IhdzQ
— PROJECT-P (@iamProjectP) April 5, 2021
— Obianyo ifeanyi (@_Chainze) April 5, 2021