- We thought the policemen were kidnappers, says army
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Wole Ayodele in Jalingo
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered full-fledged investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of three police operatives and one civilian, and serious injury to other police operatives, who were on investigation activities to Ibi, Taraba State, to arrest one Alhaji Hamisu indicted in a series of high-profile kidnap incidents in the State.
But in a swift reaction, the Nigerian Army last night countered the claim by the Nigeria Police that it killed three policemen, saying its personnel exchanged fire with kidnappers who turned out to be policemen.
The police operatives, led by ASP Felix Adolije of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) reportedly came under sudden attack and serious shooting by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, along Ibi – Jalingo Road, Taraba State.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of police, the operatives, who were taking the arrested suspect, Alhaji Hamisu to the Command Headquarters in Jalingo, were shot at severally by the soldiers despite sufficient proof that they are Police personnel on legitimate duty.
Three policemen, comprising one Inspector and two Sergeants, and one civilian died as a result of gunshot injuries sustained in the attack while others sustained serious gunshot wounds.
The soldiers thereafter released the handcuffed suspect, Hamisu, who is now on the run.
Hamisu, an alleged notorious kidnap kingpin, has been on the police wanted list for his alleged complicity in several high-profile kidnap cases including the recent abduction of an oil mogul in Taraba State wherein a ransom of about N100,000,000 was paid.
“The IG has ordered the AIG Medicals to proceed to Jalingo to ensure concerted efforts in the treatment of the injured police officers. The remains of the deceased have been deposited in the morgue,” Mba added in the statement.
But in a statement issued last night, the Nigerian Army said its troops attempted to stop some people believed to be kidnappers who turned out to be policemen.
According to the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Col. Sagir Musa, “The attention of the Army Headquarters has been drawn to the Press Release by DCP Frank Mba, Force PRO, Force Headquarters, Abuja on August 7, 2019 on the unfortunate incident that occurred on August 6, 2019 in which troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army, Takum, pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected Kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team (IRT) from the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the team”.
The statement said “on August 6, 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about 10 and driving in a white bus with Reg. No. Lagos MUS 564 EU, refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points.
“The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically, thus prompting them to return fire”.
“In the resultant fire fight, four suspects were shot and died on the spot while four others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and two others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment”.
“Following inquiries from a Police Station officer who was asked by the commander of the army troops whether he was aware of any Nigerian Police team being dispatched to operate in the LGA, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ibi Police Division responded that he was not informed about any operation by the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters, thus lending credence to the distressed call from members of the community that the suspects who turned out to be Policemen on a covert mission were rather suspected kidnappers”.
“This incident is indeed quite unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison as the Nigerian Police Force are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst myriads of other internal security threats confronting our nation of which the Nigerian Police is the lead agency”.
“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian Police have agreed to constitute a Joint Investigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident.
“Therefore, until the Joint Investigation Panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate but very avoidable unfortunate incident”.