•Says it usurped Taraba Governor’s powers
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Foremost human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, yesterday called for the disbandment of the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters to investigate the killing of policemen and a civilian by soldiers of the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State. The soldiers had also freed a kidnap kingpin arrested by the policemen.
Falana said the panel usurped the powers exclusively conferred on the Governor of Taraba State by virtue of the Commission of Enquiry Law of Taraba State.
The Rear Admiral Ibikunle Olaiya-led panel, which sat for three weeks in Taraba and Abuja, was billed to submit its report last week to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin. But it failed to do so, raising concerns over the rationale behind the delay in submitting the panel’s report.
However, THISDAY gathered that the panel received additional submissions and video evidences, which required collation. Although, the Chief of Defence Staff had told the chairman of the panel to submit the report last Friday, which did not happen.
But Falana weighed in with a call for the disbandment of the committee on the grounds of unconstitutionality. He said the panel appropriated the powers of the Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku.
According to Falana, “We have confirmed that while a team of policemen was taking a high profile kidnap suspect, one Alhaji Hamisu Bala, from a remote community to Command Headquarters, Jalingo, Taraba State, on Tuesday, August 7, 2019, some soldiers opened fire on them along Ibi-Wukari road.
“As a result of the violent attack, three policemen and a civilian were killed in cold blood while other policemen were seriously injured.
“After the brutal killing, the soldiers proceeded to free the alleged notorious suspect. In a bid to cover up the unlawful killing of the four people, the authorities of the Nigerian Army claimed that it was ‘a case of mistaken identity.’”
Falana maintained, “Notwithstanding the spurious claim, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, was reported to have set up a panel of enquiry to unravel what led to the unlawful killing of the four people.
“The setting up of the panel is diversionary, illegal and ultra vires the office of the Chief of Defence Staff. Since the slain civilian and policemen were not subject to service law, the military authorities lack the vires to cause an investigation to be conducted into a murder case covered by section 4 of the Police Act.”
Insisting that the military high command lack the powers to constitute such a panel, Falana stated, “Although the panel has commenced the investigation, it is pertinent to point out that the Chief of Defence Staff has no power under the Armed Forces Act or the Commission of Enquiry Law of Taraba State or under any other law whatsoever to institute a panel of enquiry to investigate the allegation of the cold murder of citizens by soldiers.
“We are not unaware of the claim of General Olonisakin that the panel was authorised by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He said, “By setting up the panel to investigate the tragic event that occurred in Taraba State, the Chief of General Staff has usurped the powers exclusively conferred on the Governor of the State by virtue of the Commission of Enquiry Law of Taraba State.”