- Defence chief awaits further directives
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, has submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari the report of the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to probe the circumstances surrounding the killing of police detectives and civilians by soldiers of 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Takum, Taraba State.
The soldiers shot to death the civilians and policemen, who were members of a special anti-crime squad from the Office of the Inspector General of Police, as they were transporting a suspected kidnap don, Alhaji Bala Hamisu Wadume, to the state police command for interrogation, and reportedly helped the suspect to escape.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend that the report, submitted penultimate week by the Rear Admiral Ibikunle Olaiya-led panel to Olonisakin, was further reviewed by him and he made additional recommendations before transmitting the report to the president.
The CDS submitted the report to the president last week after the comprehensive review that looked at recommendations bordering on the indictment of culpable army and police personnel in terms of appropriate sanctions to be meted out to them and recommendations for prosecution of Wadume and other civilian collaborators.
It was learnt that the president was left to deal with the festering disagreement between the army and the police, which continued throughout the panel’s sitting.
THISDAY checks showed that the police representative on the panel still harboured doubts that Olonisakin, being an army general, would be fair in his recommendations and allegedly made further moves to ensure that the contention of the police that the soldiers abetted Wadume, which it had stuck to throughout the panel deliberations, was captured in the final panel report presented to Buhari.
A competent source close to the panel told THISDAY that the CDS has submitted the report to the president and was awaiting further directives.
He said: “The report has been submitted to the president. The rumour that there is an attempt to cover up the panel report is baseless.
“The CDS has submitted the report to the president, who gave the directive for the setting up of the panel in the first place.
“As it is now, we await further directives from the president on the next step to take. We have done our bit and the report is now before the commander-in-chief.”
There had been concerns over the delay in the release of the report of the panel set up by the DHQ on the orders of Buhari, to probe the killing of police detectives and civilians by soldiers.
The soldiers had opened fire on the policemen, killing three of them on the spot in spite of the fact that they were subjected to identification process.
They had also set the kidnap suspect free but he was later rearrested by the police.
The incident had engendered bad blood between the police and the army, prompting the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, to issue a circular warning soldiers to be careful with interactions with the police and to wear mufti while travelling to guard against possible attacks by policemen on patrol duties, especially following intensified online campaign by the police, particularly on its social media channels.
THISDAY had reported that the panel had indicted Captain Tijani Balarabe, who ordered the killing of the policemen and some of his accomplices for court-martial.
Buratai also confirmed at a recent conference that army personnel involved in the killing would be decisively dealt with to serve as a deterrent to others.
The report had also recommended further investigation of the connection between Wadume and some military and police personnel as regards gun-running, following the suspect’s confession.
It also recommended that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should look into the assets of the suspects in Taraba and Kano States.
The EFCC had told THISDAY that it would pick up from where the panel stopped after the submission of the report.
However, following the delay in the release of the contents of the report to the public after the panel’s sitting in Taraba and Abuja, a source close to one of the families of the deceased policemen said the delay in making the content of the report public amounted to a cover-up
“This is getting to two months since the committee was set up. The committee rounded off sitting about two weeks ago and we are yet to hear anything.
“We are uncomfortable with the situation. Our family wants to see justice done and done quickly. This is clearly a brutal killing of a law enforcement officer on national assignment.
“We hope this delay is not a cover-up. The wife and children demand justice; we need to know what happened to our son because justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.