The killing of three policemen and a civilian by soldiers in Taraba State continued to generate a war of words between the Police and the Nigerian Army with the Police High Command Thursday accusing the Army of vilifying and disrespecting the slain policemen. In a press statement almost 24 hours after the army reacted to the attack, Police spokesman, Deputy Commissioner of Police Frank Mba, said it was “insensitive, disrespectful and unpatriotic” of the army to have described “policemen on lawful national assignment as “suspected kidnappers,” and insisted that the Army’s claims of “error killing” of the police officers were untrue and an “obvious distortion of facts.”
“The Force also considers it insensitive, disrespectful and unpatriotic for the press release by the Army to continue to describe policemen on lawful national assignment as ‘suspected kidnappers’ long after it had become crystal clear to the Army that these are law enforcement officers who unfortunately were gruesomely murdered in the line of duty by Nigerian soldiers attached to 93 Battalion, Takum”, it said.
Mba on Wednesday night said three policemen – an Inspector and two Sergeants – and a civilian were on a covert operation in Taraba State when they were killed by the Nigerian troops. An assistant superintendent of police, Vincent Maxwell, on Thursday said the officers killed were among the best on the inspector-general of police’s intelligence response team (IRT). The Police also raised posers about the whereabouts of the “notorious Kidnapper, Alhaji Halisu Bala Wadume” which the army claimed to have rescued and who was originally arrested by the Police.
“The most important question arising from the Nigerian Army Press Release is: Where is Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume? Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume is a millionaire kidnapper arrested by the Police but paradoxically treated as a “kidnap victim” by the soldiers and subsequently ‘rescued’ by them. Where is he? Where is the rescued kidnapper?” he queried. The police, however, demanded that the kidnap suspect arrested by the police team should be provided by the army, since the army claims to have “rescued” the suspect. “How could a kidnap suspect properly restrained with handcuffs by the Police escape from the hands of his military rescuers?”
The Nigerian army, in its reaction to the statement, said the team of police in a white bus “refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points,” prompting the army to suspect them as the kidnappers. “The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops,” army’s spokesman Sagir Musa said. “It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically, thus prompting them to return fire,” Musa alleged.
Mba said it is “it is not true that the policemen failed to identify themselves as alleged in the press release. The video on the incident, now viral, wherein the voice of one of the soldiers was heard loudly proclaiming that the policemen were from the Force Headquarters, Abuja speaks volume. Besides, the presence of the police personnel was well known to the Taraba Police Command as the operatives officially and properly documented not only at the state command headquarters but also at the Wukari Area Command and the Ibi Divisional Headquarters. As a matter of fact, some of the detectives from the Taraba State Command’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were part of the operation”.
The army headquarters blamed the incident on absence of communication and proper coordination between the police and the soldiers who thought they were kidnappers following a distress call. Mba however insisted that the actions of the soldiers before and after the killing of the policemen were suspicious. He said: “If Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume was a “victim of kidnap” as claimed, and properly rescued by soldiers, why was he not taken to the Army Base for documentation purposes and debriefing in line with the Standard Operating Procedure in the Nigerian Army? Why were the Police Operatives shot at close range even after they had identified themselves as Police Officers on legitimate duty as evident in the video now in circulation?”
Meanwhile, the Police Thursday night paid tribute to the three policemen with Mba saying the gallant policemen were among the best detectives in the force, who took part in various major operational breakthroughs, including· the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans, and the arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok school girls in Borno State.
Mba said the trio of Inspector Mark Edaile, from Edo State, Sergeant Usman Danzumi and Sergeant Dahiru Musa from Taraba State participated in the arrest of Umar Abdulmalik, the overall Boko Haram Commander of North Central Nigeria and several members of his group.
They also participated in “the arrest of the kidnappers of two American and two Canadian citizens in Kaduna State and most recently, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura and arrest of the 13 terrorists responsible for his kidnap in his home town Daura, Katsina State on May 1, 2019, among many other outstanding feats. The gallant, outstanding IRT team attacked by soldiers in Taraba State consists of some of the most disciplined, proficient and hardworking Police investigators in the service of the nation”.
“The Inspector General of Police, IGP MA Adamu, commiserates with the families, friends and professional colleagues of the fallen heroes, reassuring them that their death will not be in vain. The IGP equally calls for calm among Nigerians as efforts are in top gear to unravel the mystery surrounding this bizarre crime. May their souls rest in peace!”
In a related development, the Nigerian Security Council, the highest security body in the country, rose from a meeting in the State House Thursday with a resolution ordering the defence headquarters to probe the circumstances leading to the killing of the three policemen and a civilian by soldiers. Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Chief of Naval Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique, said the council resolved to constitute a committee to unravel the circumstances surrounding the tragic episode. Accordingly, he said the defence headquarters had been mandated to constitute the committee and supervise it.