|At least 44 people, mostly worshippers, died in the attack on Saint Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church [Reuters]|
Hafiz Ringim, Nigeria’s inspector general of police, has been called in to explain “within 24 hours” the escape of Kabiru Sokoto, a suspected member of the Islamist Boko Haram group, who is alleged to have been involved in a deadly Christmas Day bomb attack.
Captain Caleb Olubolade, the minister for police, said: “If he is found guilty of complicity, he himself will have to account for his mistakes.
“I have also directed that the officers involved and the personnel involved should be detained immediately.”
At least 44 people, mostly worshippers, were killed in the December 25 attack on Saint Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Madalla, outside Abuja, the capital.
Sokoto, who was arrested on Saturday, had been handed over to a police commissioner for further investigation.
The governors of the 36 Nigerian states have lodges in the capital, Abuja, where Sokoto was arrested.
Sokoto was being transferred to a satellite village called Abaji, near Abuja, for further investigation on Sunday, police said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In the course of undertaking this important procedure, the policemen on escorts with the suspect were attacked by the suspected sect gang members and in the process the suspect was freed,” it said.
“The police view this development as a serious negligence on the part of the commissioner of police and have since queried and suspended him from duty.”
The senior police officer, the identity of whom was not disclosed, and members of his team would be prosecuted if a criminal case was established against them, it also said.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abuja, said that a massive police manhunt is under way for Sokoto.
“If nothing else they have to prove that they are capable of re-arresting this individual,” he said.
“They say, if anything, they won’t want it to look like the police are part and parcel (to his escape).”
Boko Haram blamed
Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the Christmas day attack, has been blamed for scores of attacks in Nigeria, including an August suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja that killed at least 25.
Also on Tuesday, six high-ranking members of group were arrested in a raid in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, according to a Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) commander.
“We have succeeded in arresting six high-profile members of Boko Haram in a raid on their hideout following useful information provided us by some residents,” JTF commander Victor Ebhaleme told the AFP news agency.
He said the six were being interrogated and gave no further details.
Acting on a tip-off, soldiers raided a hideout used by the group on Tuesday and defused five bombs across Maiduguri.
In the same city, troops shot dead four suspected members of Boko Haram and injured five others on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning near Maiduguri, members of the group attacked an army outpost, killing two, according to Nigeria’s military.
A witness said that a soldier and a hospital worker died in the attack.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantely Christian south.
Christian leaders have warned that they will have to defend themselves if authorities do not address the spiralling violence.