The face-off between the Nigerian police and the Nigerian Army over last Tuesday’s killing of three members of a special police squad and three civilians in Taraba State deepened after the Police High Command demanded that the military should hand over the suspected killers to it for investigation and prosecution. The police also accused the Nigerian Army of engaging in “disrespectful and unpatriotic conduct” by calling the fallen policemen kidnappers just as the Nigerian Security Council, the highest security body in the country rose from a meeting in Abuja and ordered the Defence Headquarters to investigate the circumstances that led to the killing of the police officers.
The death toll in the incident, however, rose to six yesterday as two more civilians among the injured succumbed to injuries they sustained when a military patrol team engaged the police special squad in a gunfight, while they were escorting an arrested suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume, to the Taraba State Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo.
The army high command, which has been highly embarrassed by the incident, has launched a manhunt for Wadume, who was said to have been mistakenly released by the soldiers who reportedly thought he was a victim of kidnapping. Police operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), led by Felix Adolije, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), had reportedly come under sudden attack by soldiers along Ibi – Jalingo Road, Taraba State.
Police spokesman, Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), said the police was still expecting the army to hand over the errant soldiers to the police for investigation and possible prosecution.
According to a statement by the police, the operatives, who were taking the suspect to the state Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo, were shot at severally by the soldiers despite sufficient proof that they were police personnel on legitimate duty. Three officers -one inspector and two sergeants, and one civilian, were killed on the spot while two other civilians later died from gunshot injuries sustained in the attack while others sustained serious gunshot wounds.
The soldiers, thereafter, released the handcuffed suspect who is now on the run. Wadume, an alleged notorious kidnap kingpin, has been on the police wanted list for his alleged complicity in several high-profile kidnap cases, including the recent abduction of an oil mogul in Taraba State wherein a ransom of about N100, 000,000 was paid. Mba also identified the deceased as Inspector Mark Edaile from Edo State as well as Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa, both from Taraba State.
According to the police, “The gallant, outstanding and innocent IRT team attacked by the soldiers in Taraba State is one of the best and most highly trained IRT teams in the country. They are part of the teams responsible for the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans; arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok School Girls in Borno State. They were also part of the team that arrested Umar Abdulmalik, the overall Boko Haram commander of North-central Nigeria and several of his group members. They also arrested the kidnappers of the two American and two Canadian citizens in Kaduna State, and most recently, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura in Kano State and arrest of the 13 terrorists responsible for his kidnapping. It is very sad that the notorious leader of the kidnappers that was arrested by IRT in Taraba State, with handcuff and leg chain was released by the Army to escape.”