More than 800 inmates were freed by heavily armed gunmen who stormed a jail in Nigeria's Oyo State, raising concerns about how safe detention facilities are in the West African nation where authorities have struggled to stem rising violence.

Some 575 inmates were missing while 262 escapees had since been captured, the prison service in a statement. (FILE PHOTO)
Some 575 inmates were missing while 262 escapees had since been captured, the prison service in a statement. (FILE PHOTO) (Reuters)

Gunmen have attacked a jail in Nigeria's Oyo State and freed over 800 inmates by force.

The prison service in a statement on Saturday said the attackers were heavily armed "with sophisticated weapons" and, after an exchange of gunfire with prison officers, gained entrance into the prison yard by blasting the walls with dynamite.

Some 575 inmates were missing while 262 escapees had since been captured, it added. 

READ MORE: More than 1,800 prisoners escape after attack on Nigeria jail

Probe launched

Olanrewaju Anjorin, a spokesman of the Oyo correctional center in Oyo state, on Saturday said that the gunmen attacked the facility late Friday and an investigation into the incident which will reveal the extent of damage has begun.

Francis Enobore of the Nigerian Prisons Service also confirmed the incident and said he was on his way to the attacked facility.

Third jailbreak this year

Friday’s attack is the third this year in Nigeria, where jailbreaks are becoming more frequent and police only capture a fraction of those who escape. 

This latest jailbreak raises more concerns about how safe detention facilities are in the West African nation where authorities have struggled to stem rising violence. 

Local sources reported in July this year that at least 4,307 inmates had escaped from prisons since 2017, based on compiled media reports.

In 2021 alone, more than 2,000 inmates were freed in two earlier jailbreaks: on September.13 when 240 inmates were freed after gunmen attacked a detention facility in north-central Kogi state with explosives and on April 5 when at least 1,800 were freed in the southeast Imo state when another facility was also blown up.

READ MORE: Gunmen storm Nigeria prison, free some 240 inmates

Most of the recent jailbreaks in Nigeria seem not to be connected although the attacks are carried out in a similar manner with the use of explosives. 

Authorities have managed to rearrest some escaped inmates, sometimes in neighboring states, while others return willingly. 

A good number of those who have escaped in such attacks are yet to be convicted and still awaiting trial.

Nigerian prisons hold 70,000 inmates but only about 20,000, or 27 percent, have been convicted, according to government data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies