PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has ordered Nigeria’s defence headquarters to investigate the recent killing of three policemen and a civilian at Ibi in Taraba State after they were shot by soldiers of the of 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army.
Earlier this week, soldiers shot three policemen who were taking notorious kidnapper Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume into custody. In what is considered a monumental mix-up in communication, it is thought the soldiers mistook the policemen for kidnappers, so shot them and released Alhaji Wadume but the police authorities are refusing to accept this explanation, saying their men identified themselves to the troops.
With the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) naming the three slain officers as Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi and Sergeant Dahiru Musa, it is asking for explanations as to why the plain clothed men were killed even after telling the troops who they were. NPF officials have also asked the Nigerian Army to produce Alhaji Wadume, amid insinuations that the soldiers were working in cahoots with the kidnappers.
As tension mounts among the security forces, President Buhari called a meeting of security chiefs yesterday and after the summit, chief of air staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said an inquiry will be held into what went wrong. NPF spokesman Deputy Commissioner of Police Frank Mba, said that after killing the policemen, the soldiers released the handcuffed suspect, Alhaji Hamisu, who is now on the run.
Air Marshal Abubakar said, however, that to get to the bottom of the matter, a committee will be setup under the defence headquarters to critically look into the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident. He also revealed that the council evaluated the current strategy of managing internal security operations across the country.
However, this is unlikely to placate the police, who say the three slain officers are among its best men as they have been responsible for arresting numerous notorious criminals. According to Mr Mba, these include the kidnap kingpin Evans, Boko Haram commander Umar Abdulmalik, and 22 of the Boko Haram terrorists responsible for kidnapping the Chibok schoolgirls.
They are also believed to have freed many hostages of late, including the Magajin Garin in Daura as well as two Americans and two Canadians in Kaduna State. NPF commanders have also accused the Nigerian Army of disrespectful and unpatriotic conduct by calling the slain policemen suspected kidnappers.
DCP Mba said: “The force considers it insensitive, disrespectful and unpatriotic for the press release by the army to continue to describe policemen on lawful national assignment as suspected kidnappers long after it had become crystal clear to the army that these are law enforcement officers who unfortunately were gruesomely murdered in the line of duty by Nigerian soldiers attached to 93 Battalion, Takum. We also want to know the whereabouts of the notorious kidnapper, Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume who the army claimed to have rescued, who was originally arrested by the police.
“The most important question arising from the Nigerian Army Press Release is where is Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume? Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume is a millionaire kidnapper arrested by the police but paradoxically treated as a kidnap victim by the soldiers and subsequently rescued by them.”
In addition, the NPF noted that the Nigerian Army press release was silent on the source of the alleged distress report or identity of the complainant. Mr Mba has asked for the basis of the strength of whose report, the Nigerian Army claimed had informed its decision to engage in the purported chase and rescue operation.
“Needless to state that in the true spirit of transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army ought to have arrested the purported distress caller if any for obviously and deliberately furnishing them with false and misleading information. Besides, such arrest should in fact be made public.
“It is not true that the policemen failed to identify themselves as alleged in the press release. The video on the incident, now viral, wherein the voice of one of the soldiers was heard loudly proclaiming that the policemen were from the force headquarters, Abuja speaks volumes.
“Besides, the presence of the police personnel was well known to the Taraba Police Command as the operatives were officially and properly documented not only at the state command headquarters but also at the Wukari Area Command and the Ibi Divisional Headquarters. As a matter of fact, some of the detectives from the Taraba State Command’s Criminal Investigation Department were part of the operation,” Mr Mba added.
Nigerian Army headquarters had blamed the incident on the absence of communication and proper coordination between the police and the soldiers who thought the policemen were kidnappers following a distress call. However, the NPF have rejected this explanation, saying that if this were the case, the rescued kidnapper would have been taken to an army facility and debriefed.