- Report to be submitted this week
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The bickering between the Nigerian Army and the police over the circumstances that led to the killing of three policemen and two civilians during the escape of suspected Taraba kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, earlier in the month disrupted the smooth operations of the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to probe the incident, THISDAY learnt at the weekend.
A source said during the panel’s sittings, the Nigerian Army and the police stood their grounds, trading words on the cause of the incident.
Soldiers of 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, had shot members of a special anti-crime squad from the Inspector General of Police Office, who had arrested Wadume and were transporting him to the state police command, Jalingo, for interrogation, killing the three policemen and the civilians on the spot.
They rescued the suspect, who was taken to the army headquarters from where he was set free.
The soldiers had hinged their action on a report they claimed to have received that Wadume was being kidnapped and the police squad’s alleged refusal to stop at three military checkpoints on the way to identify themselves.
However, the police, rebutted the allegations, saying the team followed standard operational procedures and properly identified themselves. They had accused the soldiers of collaborating with Wadume and his gang to abort the operations.
THISDAY, however, gathered that the panel, headed by Rear Admiral I.T. Olaiya, which sat in Taraba and Abuja, had rounded off its sittings and might submit its reports to the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, this week.
“Though the committee was made up of the army, police, navy, air force, the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Department of State Services (DSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the army and the police stood their grounds and made presentations that reinforced and consolidated their initial positions on the conflict.
A source said: “The police maintained their position that the soldiers who carried out the shooting aided the escape of the kidnap kingpin by cutting his handcuffs and setting him free.
“The army on its part also took exception to the decision of the police to release the video of Wadume’s confession on twitter while the panel had not concluded sitting.
“The panel members were also not okay with the confession video released by the police after the re-arrest of the kidnap suspect.
“The arguments of both the police and army reflected the initial positions they had taken before the panel was set up, though the evidence and submissions punctured some of their arguments.”
He added: “The police stuck to the line of argument that the shooting of the policemen was unwarranted after they had been subjected to series of identification processes at the checkpoints.
“The police also wanted to be commended for re-arresting the suspect, which the panel agreed with but not the release of the video.
“To douse the tensions, the panel chairman insisted that what should be paramount was not the position taken by each party but the evidence being compiled by the panel to unravel the circumstances.”
He said the panel members were also uncomfortable with “inaccurate and sometimes misleading reports in the media, some of which were publicised and did not reflect what was going on in the panel.”
Another source said the panel would recommend disciplinary and punitive measures, including dismissal and court-martial in the case of indicted military personnel.
THISDAY gathered that the panel was determined to ensure that appropriate sanctions were applied to culpable personnel involved in the shooting, especially with those who were turning the military institution into a merchandise.
On the inducement of both army and police personnel by Wadume, the source said the panel was determined to make recommendations that would ensure that security agencies were not turned to cheap, cash-and-carry institutions by criminal elements.”
He quoted the panel chairman as saying: “The military institution should not be turned to a criminal business enterprise by personnel and same for other agencies. Those who are not ready to do this work should look elsewhere. Those found culpable should face the wrath of the law and the innocent must be set free in spite of any unsubstantiated evidence out there.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the panel, Olaiya has instructed the secretariat of the committee to compile all submissions, interrogations, witness submissions and video evidence to his office for final compilation and submission within the week.