TARABA KILLINGS: WHY GOVERNMENT MUST ACT

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Wednesday letter

The news of how some soldiers killed three policemen and some civilians in Taraba State is still a hot topic. The police side of the story is that they had gone to the state on covert operation to arrest a kidnap kingpin whom they succeeded in arresting. On their way back they were accosted by these soldiers who shot at them at point blank range and killed three of them instantly despite knowing that they were policemen from Force Headquarters.

The soldiers set the kidnap kingpin free afterward. The police claim that the kingpin was in handcuffs when this incident took place. The Nigerian Army had initially claimed that the soldiers mistook the policemen for kidnappers as they got a distress call that some kidnap had taken place and that the policemen did not properly identify themselves as special force from the police headquarters. Hearing the two sides of this gruesome story, some questions will readily prop up. But since a panel has been set up to investigate the incident, it will only be necessary to analyze the story as told by the police and the army knowing full well that the truth will soon be unravelled. The army has not denied the fact that the kidnap kingpin was in handcuffs as at the time of the unfortunate incident. So how could he have escaped without trace since this incident happened without anybody citing him? Nigerians are keen to see how this issue will be resolved because it is an issue that puts a question mark to the avowed claim of the security forces to fight insurgency and other security vices that have eaten deep into the fabric of our nation and threatening our coexistence.

The revered former chief of army staff Theoplus Danjuma had once accused the Nigerian army of colluding with criminal elements. Now this incident is happening in Taraba State. I wish not to connect the Danjuma allegations with this incident because it may be a happenstance. But this killing brings to the fore lapses in our security system. We have heard stories of soldiers giving out information to the Boko Haram sect. This is a clarion call to the presidency to restructure the security architecture in the country. This story will not end in punishing some soldiers or personnel. The Buhari administration must show its commitment to rid the security apparatus of undesirable elements whose loyalties are in doubt. Buhari seems to lack ideas on how to resolve the issues bedevilling the country. Buhari should infuse fresh blood into the security system.

This means that there must be change of guards in the army. The current chief of army staff Tukur Burutai has done his best and is time to bring a fresh man with fresh ideas. One of the reasons for this is that it will revitalize the soldiers and block some loopholes already created. This is how to create a fighting force and maintain loyalty in the military institution. President Buhari as a former soldier and retired general should know this. One wonders what is going on with this government.

The panel set up to investigate this sad story must work assiduously not only to unravel the truth in this incident but must establish the remote cause and the reason behind the action of the soldiers. This will unravel the fifth columnists in our security system undermining the fight against terrorism. The panel must not spare anybody because it has to do with the security of the nation. This may be the reason why the fight against insurgency has taken long time despite the billions of naira government pumped into the fight. This may be the reason why Boko Haram is still a fighting force despite apparent lies from the government that the group has been decimated. If the security forces aid criminals to operate, it tells a lot about the malfunctioning of the system. But the truth is that government cannot claim total ignorance of this malfeasance of the security personnel paid with tax payers’ money that they are meant to protect. If a sister security agency like the army can wantonly kill personnel of another sister agency, then a lot has to be done. The panel must know that its call is a call to duty and must rise up to the occasion. The police have already raised some posers for the army and these posers deserve answers. Aside this, the government must set their dragnet to recapture this escaped kingpin. We have seen in the past where a Boko Haram kingpin was arrested and he later escaped from the hands of the police. I will personally not be disappointed if this story dies a natural death.

Chimezie Elemuo, legal practitioner, Port Harcourt