- Security council orders investigation into killing
- Death toll rises to six
Omololu Ogunmade, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos
The face-off between the police and the Nigerian Army over Tuesday’s killing of three members of a police special squad and a civilian in Taraba State deepened yesterday as the Police High Command demanded that the military should hand over the suspected killers to it for investigation and prosecution.
The police also accused the Nigerian Army of engaging in “disrespectful and unpatriotic conduct” by calling the fallen policemen kidnappers just as the Nigerian Security Council, the highest security body in the country, rose from a meeting yesterday in Abuja and ordered that the Defence Headquarters should investigate the circumstances that led to the killing of the police officers.
The death toll in the incident, however, rose to six yesterday as sources told THISDAY that two more civilians among the injured had succumbed to the injuries sustained when a military patrol team engaged the police special squad in a gunfight, while they were escorting an arrested suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume, to the Taraba State Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo.
THISDAY also gathered that the army authorities, who were highly embarrassed by the incident, have launched a manhunt for Wadume, who was said to have been mistakenly released by the soldiers who had reportedly thought he was a victim of kidnapping.
Police operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), led by Mr. Felix Adolije, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), had reportedly come under sudden attack by soldiers along Ibi – Jalingo Road, Taraba State.
Police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), who confirmed the development to THISDAY Thursday, said the force was still expecting the army to hand over the errant soldiers to the police for investigation and possible prosecution.
According to a statement by the police, the operatives, who were taking the suspect to the state Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo, were shot at severally by the soldiers despite sufficient proof that they were 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 who is now on the run.
Wadume, 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.
Mba also identified the deceased as Inspector Mark Edaile from Edo State as well as Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa, both from Taraba State.
According to the police, “The gallant, outstanding and innocent IRT team attacked by the soldiers in Taraba State is one of the best and most highly trained IRT teams in the country.
“They are part of the teams responsible for the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans; arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok School Girls in Borno State.
“They were also part of the team that arrested Umar Abdulmalik, the overall Boko Haram commander of North-central Nigeria and several of his group members.
“They also arrested the kidnappers of the two American and two Canadian citizens in Kaduna State, and most recently, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura in Kano State and arrest of the 13 terrorists responsible for his kidnapping.
“It is very sad that the notorious leader of the kidnappers that was arrested by IRT in Taraba State, with handcuff and leg chain was released by the Army to escape.”
In a statement Mba later issued yesterday, the police also said it was unbecoming for the Army to continue to refer to the fallen 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,” the police said.
The police 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 police said: “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?
“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!
“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.”
Earlier, the Army had said soldiers 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, troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army, Takum, had pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers, who turned out to be members of 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.
He said the soldiers, who were responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim, had exchanged gunfire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road.
The Army added that 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 checkpoints.
“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 policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment,” the army said.
Death Toll Hits Six
The death toll arising from the shooting of the policemen has risen to six as two more civilian deaths have been recorded.
THISDAY gathered exclusively that the two died in the wee hours of Thursday.
Out of the injured persons, including a police informant, a guide and some police operatives, two of the civilians later died yesterday from the gunshot wounds received.
FG Orders Probe into Killing of Policemen, Civilians
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Security Council, rose from its meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday in Abujaand ordered the Defence Headquarters to probe the circumstances that led to the killing of the policemen and the civilians by soldiers.
Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, the Chief of Naval Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar, said the council had resolved to constitute a committee to probe the incident.
According to him, the Defence Headquarters has been mandated to constitute the committee and supervise it.
Abubakar also said the council reviewed the security strategy currently in use by the security forces with the agreement that they were making progress, adding that the handling of security operations so far was satisfactory.
According to him, Nigerians should be assured of the preparedness of the armed forces and the entire security network to continuously work hard for the protection of lives and property of citizens. He added that no one would be allowed to undermine Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
“This briefing is just to acquaint you with the issues discussed during the National Security Council meeting. The council evaluated the current strategy of managing internal security operations all over the country and we are satisfied with the current efforts. We are making substantial progress in all the areas of conflicts.
“The council also decided that on the unfortunate incident in Taraba State in Ibi, a committee will be set up by the Defence Headquarters to critically look into the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident.
“Finally, we also want to assure Nigerians that the armed forces of Nigeria and other security agencies would continue to work to ensure the security of Nigerians and to also ensure that no individual or group of individuals undermines the territorial integrity of Nigeria. That in a nutshell is the outcome of this meeting,” he stated.
Asked if the council deliberated on the promise made by the president to traditional rulers from the South-west last week that the federal government would deploy technological equipment, including drones to fight insecurity in the region, Abubakar said the matter was still under consideration.
He said the deployment of technology would continue to play crucial roles in the fight against insecurity, adding that technologies that are also not currently in use will be secured to provide security for the citizenry.
He however, did not state the time of the deployment.
“Technology will continue to play a very critical role in resolving security challenges in Nigeria. All the services are using one technology or the other in order to ensure that our country is secured.
“So, technology will continue to play a role and we are also looking at other areas of technology that are not currently in use to ensure that we put together all that is required to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians,” he added.
Present at the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe-Ibas; the National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Babagana Monguno; the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; Director-General of Nigeria Intelligence, Ahmed Rufai while the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu was represented at the meeting.