The Nigeria Prison Service in Kogi has confirmed the escape of a 29-year-old accused, Lawrence Urih, from prison custody.
Umar Abubakar, the Public Relations Officer of the Prison Command, told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Tuesday in Lokoja that Urih escaped when he was brought to the State High Court, Lokoja, for the continuation of his trial.
Mr. Abubakar said that the accused had been kept in the Medium Security Prisons, Koton-Karfe, from where he was taken to the court in Lokoja, on Monday.
He said that the prison authorities were immediately notified about the escape by the robbery suspect.
NAN gathered that Mr. Urih, standing trial at Kogi High Court II for criminal conspiracy and armed robbery, scaled the walls of the court complex and escaped, when an unarmed warden escorted him out to urinate.
Mr. Urih, a resident of 1, DC Road, Ole, Delta State, said to be a painter, was escorted out by the warden across a stretch of 50 meters of grassland towards the high court fence to urinate.
The prosecuting counsel in the case, Badama Kadiri, has however declared that he suspected foul play in the escape of the accused.
He questioned why a trained prisons’ personnel would escort a self-confessed armed robber to urinate unarmed, and without handcuffs.
Mr. Kadiri said he was particularly disturbed that the prison officers did not tell him when the suspect was being taken out, adding that he had to apply for adjournment when he did not see the accused in court.
He said that the trial had reached an advanced stage, adding that four, out of his eight witnesses, had testified, while one person was billed to testify on Monday, but for the escape.
In the charges, the accused allegedly conspired with one Aby (surname unknown), and a commercial motorcyclist, whose identity is not known, both at large, to rob one Williams Aliwo of N500,000 cash, at gun point.
It further showed that Aliwo, a former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Lokoja branch, was robbed at gun point in his office on May 9, 2016, at about 12 noon in Lokoja.
Mr. Kadiri said that the accused also made away with a Nokia 640XL handset, and one I-Pad.
Luck, however, ran out on him the following day when the complainant’s secretary, Hajarat Alkali, spotted Urih in a banking hall in Lokoja and promptly reported to the Police.
Mr. Kadiri told the court that the accused was promptly arrested and charged for criminal conspiracy and armed robbery.
According to him, the offences were contrary to sections 97(1) and 298(c) of the Penal Code.
The principal witness in the case, Mr. Aliwo, the Principal Partner, Cristal Chambers Law firm, Lokoja, expressed shock that the men of the Prisons Service could be “so lackadaisical in handling such dangerous criminals”.
“ I wonder why they should get so careless in spite of warnings by the Police and the prosecuting counsel about the likelihood of the accused escaping, if given the chance.”