Soldiers and policemen on Thursday sized themselves up at the Borno State Government House in Maiduguri in a clash over rice meant for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Since last Monday, IDPs camp residents who chose to stay away from special camps but are resident within Maiduguri have daily thronged the state Government House to collect bags of rice on distribution.
This has caused untold hardship on the town as it has led to traffic gridlock and inhuman treatment of over 10,000 IDPs who joined the queue as early as 7a.m. daily.
About half of them have been returning home daily without rice even after withstanding the harsh weather condition and harsher treatment from the security officials.
But in the frustration, the situation hit boiling point yesterday morning when they were tear gassed during the face-off between soldiers and policemen who were alleged to wanted share of their largesse.
According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers tried to force their way into the Deputy Governor’s Office, the place designated for the distribution so as to get their vehicles filled with bags of rice.
This was said to have been resisted by the anti-riot policemen, and this infuriated the soldiers who engaged the policemen. The soldiers were said to have fired several warning shot to indicate their determination to get their will obeyed.
The policemen also showed they were prepared for the raging battle as they equally shoot severally and release canisters of teargas which made the IDPs to take to their heels.
At the end of the exchange, many IDPs were left injured as were forced to scampered for safety. It was also gathered that a policeman was shot in the leg in the gun battle.
It took the intervention of the commander of counter-insurgency operation in the North-east (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, for the furious soldiers to withdraw from the battle which resonated which caused pandimonioum in the town as if it was invaded by alien forces. It was gathered that Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, the most senior military officer in the troubled town and the state Commissioner of Police, Aminchi Baraya, subsequently visited the injured policeman at the hospital, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital where he was taken to for treatment.
The police and the army in a joint statement later revealed that the situation had been brought under control.
In the statement signed by the Garrison Commander of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Col. Solomon Ikumapayi and the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Baraya, read: “There was an unfortunate fracas between a soldier and a policeman around the office of the deputy governor over a disagreement which led to the unfortunate shooting of a policeman on his foot.
“The policeman is responding to treatment and has been visited by General Irabor and Baraya, both of whom went together to sympathise with the policeman.”
The statement further revealed that the distribution was moved to the government house when thugs overpowered the committee saddled with the responsibility of getting them rice to the IDPs.