The police on Thursday ramped up public criticism of the Nigerian Army over the killing of three officers in Taraba on Tuesday.
The officers were on an operation to arrest a suspected kidnap gang leader in a remote settlement in the northeastern state. After successfully apprehending the suspect, the police officers handcuffed him and drove him towards Jalingo, the state capital, police said.
But on their way to Jalingo between, Ibi and Wukari communities, the police team of 10 persons came under close-ranging shooting from Nigerian soldiers in the white bus they were travelling on. Three officers and a civilian were killed in the process, while several others were injured.
The soldiers then freed the handcuffed suspect, police spokesperson Frank Mba said when he first made the development public on Wednesday evening.
The Nigerian Army pushed back against the account of the police late Wednesday. Army spokesperson Sagir Musa admitted soldiers from 93 Battalion were responsible for the tragedy. He, however, blamed it on poor communication on the part of the police, saying the officers were mistaken for kidnappers.
The army also claimed that villagers made a panic call to soldiers that kidnappers had come to operate in their community, leading to the hot pursuit that ended in the killing of three police officers.
Although an investigative panel had been raised to urgently get to the root of the incident, the police appeared uncomfortable with how the matter was being handled.
On Thursday evening, Mr Mba condemned the army’s description of their personnel as suspected kidnappers and challenged the military to provide evidence of its claim that villagers made a distress call to soldiers.
Mr Mba also raised a series of questions for the Nigerian Army to clarify to Nigerians around its culpability in the killing of detectives.
Security analysts said the strongly-worded public attacks the police have been directing at the army showed that President Muhammadu Buhari was not handling the issue well and the police felt helpless.
“For the police to be releasing statements to the media and coming to Twitter to scream about this showed they are helpless and not getting the support they need from the president,” Cheta Nwanze, a security analyst, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday.
Mr Nwanze urged Mr Buhari to urgently resolve the dispute, saying Nigeria cannot afford a total breakdown of harmony between the police and the military, perhaps the two most crucial institutions combatting the country’s acute insecurity.
The analyst also expressed concerns that the rescue of the kidnap suspect, now believed to be at large, by the soldiers could signal high-level connivance between criminals and security chiefs.
The suspect, identified as Alhaji Hamisu, had reportedly received N100 million as ransom in a recent abduction of an oil baron in Taraba.
Read the full statement by the police Thursday night bellow:
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT – WHERE IS THE “RESCUED” NOTORIOUS KIDNAPPER, ALHAJI HAMISU BALA WADUME?
The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to the Press Release by the Nigerian Army dated 07 August, 2019, seeking to justify the unprovoked and unwarranted murder of three (3) Police officers and one (1) Civilian, and serious injury to other operatives, who were on legitimate criminal investigation activities to Taraba State, to arrest one Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume indicted in a series of high-profile kidnap incidents in the State. In the best tradition of Esprit de Corps, Inter-Agency Harmony and National Interest, the Nigeria Police Force would naturally have kept quiet, but it has become imperative to set the record straight by addressing the obvious distortion of facts inherent in the Press Release by the Nigerian Army.
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?
Secondly, the Press Release was silent on the source of the alleged distress report or identity of the complainant, on the strength of whose report, the Army claimed had informed their decision to engage in the purported chase and rescue operation. Needless to state that in the true spirit of transparency and accountability, the Nigerian Army ought to have arrested the purported distress caller – if any – for obviously and deliberately furnishing them with false and misleading information. Besides, such arrest should, in fact, be made public!
Thirdly, 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 IRT 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 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.
In the final analysis, we leave the Nigerian Army authorities to provide Nigerians with answers on the following questions emanating from their Press Release:
· Where is the notorious kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume ‘rescued’ by the soldiers?
· How and why was Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume released by the soldiers?
· How could a kidnap suspect properly restrained with handcuffs by the Police escape from the hands of his military rescuers?
· If Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume is 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?
DCP FRANK MBA
FORCE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER