24 minutes from the airport, 1 hour from the State House – analysis of the audacious ISWAP attack on Kuje prison

Kuje, a satellite town housing more than 97,367 people – according to the 2006 census – and a correctional facility in Abuja, was hit by gunmen on the night of July 5.

Around 300 Islamic State insurgents in West Africa Province (ISWAP) spear an attack on Kuje Medium Correctional Institution.

A Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) officer securing the prison was killed, along with four inmates.

At a press conference at the facility, Defense Minister Bashir Magashi said 64 Boko Haram prisoners escaped.

A satellite image of the prison. To the south is the narrow road with tall masquerade trees.

The Nigerian prison system has three classifications based on the security arrangement: minimum, medium and maximum.

Minimum security prisons are for crimes such as fraud, theft and various crimes considered non-violent, while medium security prisons are for dangerous criminals, for example members of an armed group.

Maximum security prisons are reserved for the most dangerous criminals or suspects, such as terrorists, accused of violent crimes. They are often completely isolated from everyone.

Kuje is a medium-security prison which, at the time of the attack, housed approximately 1,000 inmates, above its capacity of 550 inmates. The attack on the correctional facility is the 14th jailbreak under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The cable visited the prison on Friday to assess the consequences of the incident and the likely threat to the security of Abuja, the country’s seat of power.


there is an army checkpoint on the road leading to Kuje. A few meters before the checkpoint is a Mobile Police Force 44 (MOPOL) barracks.

At the checkpoint, a soldier ordered the team to park and relax. We thought he wanted to interrogate us or search the car, but he quickly informed us that he was “one of the officers who went to the prison as backup” after the attack.

Although he saw our press ID cards, the officer asked “anything for the boys?” In local parlance, he asked for money. We told him to wait for our return.

Soldier asks TheCable team for bribe 48 hours after prison attack

A Google Street view of the checkpoint

In another 14 minutes (4km) conduct In the jail, we saw the Nigerian Police Divisional Headquarters, Kuje Division, sitting by the road.


After a short drive to Kuje Prison, we observed that the narrow asphalt road leading to the facility is covered with tall masquerade trees. This makes it almost impossible for anyone at the prison’s main security post to see who is coming from afar.

The trees that cover the road

After entering the facility, we noticed that there was no security observation tower on the outer perimeter wall of the prison. However, this was later seen inside the building with a CCTV camera mounted on the tower. But we couldn’t confirm if the cameras were active. Even at that, the security towers weren’t as tall as the masquerade trees outside the structure.

We also noticed that the outer perimeter fence of the prison was built with ordinary cement and blocks, just like in normal residential houses. There was only one coil of barbed wire placed on the perimeter fence. This could be easily cut with a file.


A few hours after the departure of TheCable team from Kuje, Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of the Interior, paid a visit to the prison. The minister said the facility is the most fortified prison in Nigeria.

“There was a Nigerian army platoon with sophisticated weaponry, elite Nigerian police men, Nigerian security and civil defense officers and armed officers from the Nigerian Correctional Service, on the ground. , at the time of the attack,” the Ministerassistance.

“Kuje is the most fortified in the country if fortification for security is the determining factor whether it is medium or maximum. It is of average size but maximum by the security which is in place there.

Verifications carried out by TheCable team revealed that 15.6 km from the prison is the Nigerian Navy Barracks at Pegi-Kuje. It will take 37 minutes to drive to kuje prison by car at moderate speed.

The headquarters of the NSCDC and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) are neighbors down the road from Abuja International Airport. Google Earth revealed that it would take no more than 35 minutes to travel from these paramilitary headquarters to Kuje prison if a call for reinforcements were made.

On the same road from the airport is the Nigerian Air Force base. Our calculation showed that from the base to the besieged prison, it takes 32 minutes by road.

Away from the Airport Road, the Nigerian Army Land Forces Simulation Center is on the same Musa Yar’adua Highway. This army resource center is just 44 minutes by car in Kuje Prison.

Despite all these proximities to one of Nigeria’s most influential prisons, TheCable learned that the ISWAP insurgents operated seamlessly for about 3 hours.

The distance from Kuje prison to the presidential villa and the international airport

In addition, Kuje Prison is 47.1 kilometers from Aso Rock Presidential Villa and 23.6 kilometers from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.


The medium prison shares the same ward with the Government Secondary School (GSS) in Kuje. The coeducational school operates with a day and boarding system with its women’s hostels located towards the end of the school, just 7 minutes from the prison.

From GSS to Kuje Prison

School workers told TheCable they were concerned for the safety of their boarders, particularly throughout Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday. TheCable understands that the escapees jumped into the school grounds as they attempted to escape from prison.

The escapees broke down the barricade behind one of the men’s hostels inside the GSS as they fled

The attack on the prison forced the school management to halt all academic activities and order students to return home for the Eid-el-Kabir break earlier than the appointed day.

The successful attack on Kuje Correctional Facility, billed as the most secure prison in the country, by the insurgents casts a shadow over the government’s commitment to tackling insecurity and keeping Nigerians safe.

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