Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Pressure has continued to mount on the federal government to set up a special panel of enquiry to investigate the dastardly killing of three policemen and a civilian along Ibi-Jalingo highway in Taraba State by soldiers, who feigned to be unaware they were genuine police officers.
Saturday, the Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate and Senator representing Taraba South in the National Assembly, Emmanuel Bwacha said only an independent probe panel would expose what actually transpired as far as the killing was concerned.
According to him, an independent body would be more effective in addressing all the issues so that nothing would escape scrutiny.
The senator said eyewitnesses at the scene of the tragedy, alleged that the bus, which conveyed the detectives, was actually chased by a private Salon car and not that of the military.
“This is a very embarrassing occurrence in the history of our country and must not be swept under the carpet. Nothing short of an independent panel of inquiry will unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this matter.
“Many questions are already being asked, which only an independent body can do justice to between the police, the army and indeed the Nigerian people. And also the families of the victims, who are also asking valid questions about this dastardly act,” Bwacha stated.
He added that there were talks that the kingpin kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu, who got away, was very influential.
According to him, “We are hearing that he is very influential and that he has compromised many people. An independent panel of inquiry needs to ascertain this claim. We need to know how this is so. Who has he been working with?
“Who are his backers? How did he get to the point where he can get freed by men of the nation’s armed forces? Is he supported by someone of high ranking status in or out of the military? A probe by an independent body must consider all these points in apprehending the situation,” he added.
Speaking further, he asked: “Why won’t the military use their vehicle to make the chase? If the eyewitnesses’ accounts are accurate, there was no way the bus carrying the detectives would stop for a private Salon car pursuing them. This allegation by bystanders needs to be closely examined by the panel of inquiry.”
Also, yesterday, a civil rights group by name, ACTS, called for a special panel of inquiry to investigate the remote circumstances behind the killing, insisting that Nigerians deserved to know the truth.
In a statement by Kolawole Johnson an Mr Tolu Babaleye, Acting Director, Research, Strategy & Communications andNational Secretary respectively, the group noted that Nigeria had recently become a playground for kidnappers and the people daily groan under the senseless attacks.
The group noted that security forces had been accused of not doing enough to secure the country from criminals and that efforts to rid the nation of this menace had proved abortive while the nation kept recording heart-shattering stories by victims.
The group asked the Nigerian Army to tell Nigerians, who called the soldiers for rescue as they claimed, even as it wanted to know why the soldiers shot at a close range after the police had identified themselves.
It further demanded to know why the soldiers allowed the kidnap kingpin that was handcuffed by the police to escape.
The civil society group said the Nigerian Army should not be allowed to sweep the Taraba incident under the carpet since the army had failed in the past to investigate allegations accusing soldiers of complicity in banditry and kidnapping.
It stated that the explanation by the army, blaming the incident on communication gap was untenable and unreliable.
“It is pertinent to recall that in recent times, communities have accused the army of ignoring distress calls in the past and in one of those cases, they claimed they were waiting for orders to strike. In this case of Taraba killing, who gave the order?
“Also, some victims, who managed to escape from kidnappers’ attacks have told the public of some indifferent behaviours of soldiers at checkpoints close to spots of incidents.
“Look at the case of Edo State, where some soldiers reportedly killed a vigilante in order to free some herdsmen accused of armed robbery along Benin-Abraka Way! Till today, there is no record anywhere that the soldiers were punished for the crime. For how long will this impunity continue? Enough is Enough!
“The killings of those IRT operatives in Taraba State by Nigerian soldiers must not be swept under the carpet as we have seen in the past. The President is hereby enjoined to set up a probe panel to investigate what happened with a view to unravelling the ulterior motives (if any) of the perpetrators of the heinous and dastardly killing,” it said.