NIGERIAN Army commanders have issued fresh guidelines to their troops about how to deal with policemen including asking them to wear mufti when not on duty following the recent shooting of three police officers in Taraba State by soldiers.
Last week, soldiers shot three policemen who were taking notorious kidnapper Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume into custody. In what the army said was a 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.
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked defence headquarters to probe the incident but with tensions still high, the Nigerian Army has cautioned its men to tread carefully anywhere they sight police officers over the coming weeks. Policemen are particularly enraged that apart from shooting their colleagues, the soldiers set free a suspect that had been on detectives’ radar for several years before they finally had a chance to take him into custody.
Yesterday, a Nigerian Army advisory note was leaked online. It read: “Inciting and inflammatory comments are being made by the NPF on the regular and social media platform capable of inciting police officers to exhibit aggressive tendencies towards soldiers.”
Brigadier Felix Omoigui, who circulated the alert on behalf of the chief of army staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, said soldiers should avoid being in uniform if necessary to prevent the situation from escalating. He also advised soldiers to be mindful of how they conduct themselves around policemen.
“Formations and unit commanders are to educate troops to be cautious in their dealings with police officers in the aftermath of the killings. Troops travelling on pass are urged to do so in mufti,” Brigadier Omoigui said.