By Sadeeq Shehu

I visited the Kuje Prison for the first time yesterday to see for myself the scene of the attack and somehow put myself in the mind of the attackers in a kind of playback.

I wanted to also see if I could identify some factors that might have contributed to the seeming ease with which the attack was carried out and assess how existing security measures in Kuje compare with what should be the standard for a facility of similar standing.


  1. It is classified as a Medium Security prison meaning it is supposed to hold inmates whose escape would pose just moderate risk to the community and /or inmates with a moderate capacity to break jail. (A BHT/ISWAP/Ansaru terrorist is high risk and should be in a maximum-security prison)
  2. Kuje is designed to hold 560 inmates maximum but at the time of the attack was holding some 1000 inmates ie less supervision
  3. The main access road leading to the main gate is covered by trees and overgrown bushes such that one’s approach is effectively covered from the sight of sentries at the gate even in daylight not to say night
  4. The outer perimeter wall is just about 6-7ft high as against recommended height of 8-15 ft.
  5. Only one or two coil of razor wire placed on top of perimeter wall against recommended 3 coils one on top the other.
  6. No second inner fence line once you are over the first perimeter wall, you’re through. Prison buildings should have outer and inner fence lines with a clear zone of at least 10 yards in between
  7. The walls of the prison (which attackers broke) is of ordinary cement and block instead of recommended 4-inch-thick reinforced concrete wall or precast
  8. There are two observation towers but not high enough with the line of sight covered by trees and thick bushes. Additionally, being positioned deep inside the building instead of by the outer perimeter wall the observation towers cannot serve the intended purpose which is to be able to sight /engage with fire, and intruders far off before they even reach the outer perimeter or raise alarm.
  9. A few CCTV cameras on the towers (dunno if working) but such CCTV should have been on the outer approaches.
  10. I observed a few fixed stationery security lights around but preferably movable lights that are wired to motion sensors so that they come on and point to the area of intrusion. I confirm the light was off during operation which could be a normal power outage, deliberate action, or no standby power
  11. The on-site Response force (according to an NCS official who briefed the press) is supposed to comprise 38 military, some unspecified police, and civil defense and armed correctional service personnel but no clarity if these were on the ground on a particular day. Conflicting testimonies
  12. The absence of any wounded or dead attacker left behind lends credence to the claim that all the armed defenders ran away without returning effective fire.
  13. Facing outside from inside the prison, the left, right, and front approaches are all covered by thick grasses, bushes, and a deep ravine valley to the right from which one could approach the prison completely unobserved, especially at night. The attackers came on foot via the valley to the right
  14. The fact that attackers operated for between 1-3 hours (depending on the source) and again left on foot without the defenders mounting a counterattack (after recovering from initial surprise) the fact that a divisional police station I sighted 2.5 km away couldn’t provide reinforcements, means there was no any contingency plan in place.
  15. Mixing dangerous BHT inmates who ought to be in a maximum-security prison with detained less dangerous politicians (Nyame Dariye Lawan Kyari) in the same prison was against the recommended practice for prison security of categorization and allocation of inmates and probably endangered the less dangerous politicians the attackers could have shot them just for the fun of it or abducted them


The layout, design, physical security measures, procedural security measures, and adequately well-trained security staff at the Kuje prison all fall far below the required standard for prison security and safety management system.

The President had fittingly and rightly expressed his disappointment. This disappointment should lead to some head rolling. The political leaders (both executive and legislative branches) have for too long shied away from holding heads of security agencies responsible and accountable for failures. High-time PMB cracks the whip instead of calling them for endless repetitive meetings after each attack. The President had also asked for a report: He will get a report but it will be a “cooked report “as all the security agencies that usually don’t work together will now work together to cook a report for Mr. President.

Sadeeq Shehu, @GARBASgshehu, is Adjunct Professor George C Marshall European Centre for Security Studies; Safety and Security Trainer/Counterterrorism, CVE, SSR, SSG, IHL, Human Rights


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