Residents in southeast Nigerian are protesting the planned relocation of around 47 captured members of the Boko Haram militant group to their state’s fourth largest city. Anambra state government officials have come out in opposition to the plan, saying that it would chase away investment and bring instability to their relatively stable region.
In Ekwulobia, the city where the prisoners would be relocated, residents took to the streets in peaceful protest earlier this week, calling for the plans to be halted. "The people are scared and there is a general sense of insecurity in the place,” the chairman of the local government council, Chuma Umeoji, told Daily Times Nigeria. “The Ekwulobia Prisons has not got the capacity and facility for such high-risk inmates.”
Speaking to reporters, Tony Umeoji, the chairman of the Aguata local government council, speculated that the decision was politically-motivated, meant to stunt the southeast region’s growth, the Nation reported.
Most Boko Haram prisons are currently located in the country’s northeast, where the militant group has waged an insurrection to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state since 2009. The group made global headlines in the spring of 2014 after kidnapping hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, prompting an international social media and protest campaign called “Bring Back Our Girls.”
In March, the group released a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group based in Iraq and Syria.
Local government officials in the Anambra state expressed concern that the relocation of the nearly 50 prisoners would bring the instability of the country's north to their stable region. Mass prison outbreaks are not uncommon in Nigeria. At the end of last year, the country saw three major prison breaks, including one which allowed 200 prisoners to escape from a prison in central Nigeria, Al Jazeera English reported.
In 2010, around 50 gunmen, believed to be from Boko Haram, attacked the Bauchi prison, allowing 721 prisoners to escape.
“The Ekwulobia Prisons is not a Maximum Security Prison. It is therefore not suitable as holding place for convicted terrorists,” This Day Live reported, Willie Obiano, the state’s governor, said.