Calm has returned to the Kuje Medium Security Prison in the Nigerian capital Abuja following a riot by prisoners over the weekend. Prison authorities have now taken steps to prevent another similar mass protests by the prisoners.
Trouble erupted in the prison after authorities refused detained Boko Haram suspects and other Muslims from attending Sallah prayers to mark the end of month-long fasting. A Boko Haram inmate was wounded during the riot.
According to Iroko Africa sources, the aggrieved inmates alleged that three Lebanese also detained in the same prison for suspected links to Hezbollah in Lebanon were allowed to observe the Eid-el Fitr prayers.
Prison authorities however refuted the allegation, maintaining that all Muslims were prevented from attending Sallah prayers because they were not obligatory.
A top prison official told newsmen that it was risky for the Prison Service to give any waiver to either Boko Haram or the Hezbollah suspects because it could lead to an ambush at any prayer ground.
Our sources explained that the riot broke out when the detainees complained the refusal to allow them pray was a fundamental disregard of their rights to worship.
Nigerian security officials arrested the three Lebanese after storming their residence in Kano and discovering a huge quantity of arms in a hidden bunker.
Iroko Africa learnt that the riot started from a single cell before spreading to others, with the rioters breaking windows, destroying electricity cables and shattering water pipes.
However, prison officials are said to have done their best to curtail the tension, even as the inmates poured water and attacked some of them.
Another source said the aggrieved inmates accused the prison officials of alleged double standards, claiming that the Lebanese suspects were given preferential treatment, including walking around prison grounds freely, watching TV and playing badminton.
The Controller of Prison, Mr Yusuf Kazali, rushed to the prison shortly after he learnt of the riot to see things for himself.
Refuting the allegation about discrimination and preferential treatment for Lebanese suspects, our source said: “This is a blatant lie; we do not discriminate at all. We have been fair in treating everyone equally.
Officials of other prisons where Boko Haram suspects are detained have increased security to prevent similar riots from breaking out.