•DHQ panel seeks more probe of army captain, four others
•Nigerian officials observe as Nigerien team talk with outlaws
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The military yesterday described ongoing negotiations with bandits by governors of the North-west as political and not a military decision.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai, told reporters in Abuja that despite the peace deal with the bandits, the military remained committed to flushing out the outlaws in the North.
He spoke just as the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to unravel the circumstances surrounding the killing of three police detectives and two civilians by soldiers of 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, identified lack of adherence to standard operational procedure as the cause of the brutal killing of the policemen and civilians.
In addition, the panel, which has already submitted its report to President Muhammadu Buhari, recommended further probe of Captain Tijani Balarabe and four others for their alleged involvement in the shooting of the police detectives and civilians.
The police team, which was in the state to arrest a suspected kidnap kingpin in Taraba State, Mr. Hamisu Wadume, was transporting him to the state police command in Jalingo for interrogation when the soldiers shot them and set the suspect free.
Buratai, at a news conference in Abuja, which held on the same day a Nigerian delegation took part as observers in similar talks between Nigerien government officials and bandits from that country, some of whom had used Nigerian communities as their staging posts, said: “Negotiations with bandits by governors is a means of resolving disputes. The decision by governors to negotiate is not a military decision. It is political. It is war by other means.
“We will toe the line of continuing to deal with those bandits. We have nothing against the bandits if peace is restored but ultimately, it is a political decision.”
Buratai, represented by the Director of Army Training and Operations, Major General E. O. Udo, also said the military would formally resume Operation Positive Identification begun in the North-east to track fleeing terrorists.
The operation would entail travellers identifying themselves with their national identity cards, international passports and official work place identity cards.
He added that the military would commence Operation Python Dance IV, Crocodile Smile IV and Exercise Ayem Akpatuma II in the South-east, South-south and North-central geo political zones from November 1 to December 23 to check crime and criminality in those areas.
According to him, the operation is not aimed at targeting innocent people but “a quick profiling aimed at pre-empting criminal activities in peaceful areas of the country.
Also giving update on the Taraba killings, the Defence Headquarters said in a statement that the panel recommended further investigation of the army captain in charge of the Ibi-Wukari Road checkpoint, where the shooting took place and five others.
The statement by Defence spokesman, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the panel recommended that the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police should further investigate Captain Balarabe, Sergeant Ibrahim Mohammed, Corporal Bartholomew Obanye, Divisional Crime Officer of Ibi Police Division, Assistant Superintendent of Police Aondoona Iorbee, and Inspector Aliyu Dadje for complacency and take necessary disciplinary measures against them.
It was also recommended that further investigation be conducted on Wadume for gunrunning and possibly kidnapping in order to prosecute the suspect.
The statement said: “After a thorough and painstaking investigation into the incident, the BOI submitted its report to the convening authority, observing that there were infractions and poor communication between personnel of the NPF and troops of the NA. It was also observed that there was non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure by both parties involved in the incident. It further made some recommendations to the NA and NPF to forestall future reoccurrence and bring anyone culpable to book in accordance with extant laws.
“The alleged Hummer bus mentioned in the distress call, however, conveyed police personnel of the IGP-IRT, who were on a legitimate duty in Taraba State. Also, military checkpoints in the area were deployed in by troops of Headquarters 93 Battalion, Takum, who were equally on legitimate duty to checkmate communal clashes, kidnapping and armed robbery, which were prevalent threats in Wukari Ibi area.
“Additionally, the BOI recommended that the services and other security agencies establish an interagency liaison desk to include senior officers for timely resolution of future misdemeanor.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian officials were yesterday present as observers as the Republic of Niger began discussions with bandits, some of who were infiltrating Nigeria to launch attacks or used Nigerian communities as bases for attacking their country.
THISDAY gathered that the Nigeria officials were present to guide them on how it was done in the country, especially by governors from the North-west.