Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The killing of three policemen and a civilian by soldiers in Taraba State continued to generate war of words between the Police and the Nigerian Army with the Police High Command Thursday accusing the Army of disrespectful and unpatriotic conduct by calling the slain policemen ‘suspected kidnappers.’
A statement issued by Force PRO, Deputy Commissioner of Police Frank Mba, said it was unbecoming of the army to issue a press release Wednesday night wherein it referred to the the slain policemen on legitimate national assignment as suspected kidnappers.
“The Force also 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”, it said.
The Police also raised posers about the whereabouts of the “notorious Kidnapper, Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume” which the army claimed to have rescued and 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. Where is he? Where is the rescued kidnapper?”, he queried.
The Nigerian Police further noted that “the press release was silent on the source of the alleged distress report or identity of the complainant, on the strength of whose report, the Army claimed had informed their 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.”
The police statement claimed that “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 volume.
“Besides, the presence of the police personnel was well known to the Taraba Police Command as the operatives 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 (CID) were part of the operation”.
Some soldiers had accosted a team of police operatives attached to the IGP’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT), who were in Taraba State to arrest a kidnap kingpin on Wednesday.
The policemen had arrested the kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu, who had been on their radar having been indicted in a series of high profile kidnap incidents in the state.
They were however intercepted on their way to the state police headquarters by some soldiers who shot at them, killing three policemen and a civilian on the spot, and leaving others with varying degree of injuries.
The army headquarters on Wednesday reacted to the tragic incident, blaming it on absence of communication and proper coordination between the police and the soldiers who thought they were kidnappers following a distress call.