Afraid of Reprisal, Army Warns Personnel to Stay Clear of Police

Tukur Buratai
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Major General Tukur Buratai
  • Urges travelling officers and men to wear mufti
  • Insists police team didn’t inform other agencies of mission on Taraba kidnap kingpin

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The Nigerian Army has taken steps to guard against possible reprisal from the police against soldiers following the killing last week in Taraba State of three members of a special anti-crime squad who were transporting a suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, to the state police command for interrogation.

Three policemen who were members of the 10-man team and a civilian died on the spot. Two more civilians who were together with the police team when soldiers attached to 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Takum, opened fire on their vehicle on Ibi-Jalingo, later succumbed to their gunshot injuries.

The Army Headquarters, in a circular to military formations dated August 9, 2019 and signed by Brig-Gen. F.O. Omoigui on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Tukur Buratai, warned its personnel to be cautious in dealing with policemen.

It also stuck to its gun that the police team in Taraba State did not follow the standard operational procedure of informing the state police commissioner of its mission.

It said it was the police commissioner who should have alerted other security agencies in the state.

They added that the police team operated in a vehicle that was not an official police vehicle, donned mufti and refused to be subjected to identification procedures. 

The shooting of the policemen attached to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Inspector-General of Police had generated deep mistrust between the security agencies.

The Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) operating from the office of the Inspector-General of Police was led by Mr. Felix Adolije, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).

The deceased policemen were identified as Inspector Mark Ediale as well as Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa.

The shooting incident had triggered a war of words between the army and the police with the police accusing the army of “unpatriotic and disrespectful” conduct by referring to the slain policemen as “suspected kidnappers” and demanded the whereabouts of the kidnap suspect.

But in the circular to the military formations, the Army Headquarters also warned travelling personnel to embark on such trips in mufti to avoid confrontation with the police in view of the “inciting and inflammatory” comments made by the police on the social media.

“In the aftermath of the unfortunate incident involving troops of 93 Battalion, Takum and members of the Intelligence Response Team of the NPF at Ibi LGA of Taraba State on August 6, 2019, inciting and inflammatory comments are being made by the NPF on the regular and social media platforms.

“This is capable of inciting the rank and file of the NP to exhibit aggressive tendencies against NA personnel. Accordingly, all troops on internal security duty as well as personnel travelling in and out of uniform are to be circumspect in their conduct to avoid escalation,” the circular said.

It also directed formation and unit commanders to educate troops to be circumspect in their dealings with the police.

“Consequently, formations and unit commanders are to educate troops to be cautious in their dealings with members of the NP in view of this development. Troops travelling on pass are to endeavour to do so in mufti,” the circular  said.

Providing further details in an interview with THISDAY, army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said the police team in Taraba State fell short of the required standard operational procedure.

He said: “There is no doubt that the Nigerian Army is the pride of this country. This incident happened because there are obvious signs that it will happen. Anywhere any security outfit is going beyond its areas of responsibility, it formally, professionally follows that on reaching the owner of the area, you communicate other security agencies.

“That is to say that they should report to the commissioner of police in that state. You can even liaise with other security agencies that does not mean that you are giving your position away; you may not reveal exactly what you are there for but you can say we are from Abuja on a special operation.

“And you must show identification; you cannot go about carrying arms on mufti. You cannot drive a civilian vehicle, carrying arms and avoiding checkpoints when you are stopped in a volatile society like Taraba, a recipe for disaster and that was what happened.

“Army said it is a regrettable incident. Already we said it in our press release and that investigation is ongoing. In fact, we even conceded that in an army and police committee that has been set up headed by a DIG of Police not even a general from the army. So, what do they want us to do?”

On concerns that the two committees might work at cross-purposes, Musa said: “with a superior committee from the Defence Headquarters that means all other committees are collapsed automatically.

“So, now that a committee has been set up it is just like a court; it therefore follows that all responsible organisations must not join issues. They must all connect. The only thing you can do is a formal presentation to the committee when called upon. So, any side remarks, tweet or posts on your Facebook account does not matter. This is our position as an army”.