Three police officers of the Intelligence Response team were on Tuesday last week killed by the men of the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Jalingo, Taraba State, during a shooting encounter.
The reason for the exchange of fire amongst the two groups being that the policemen who claimed to be on an investigating assignment refused to stop at three military checkpoints in Taraba State. This led to them being suspected to be kidnappers by the military men. An attempt to stop them for questioning and search led to a severe altercation between the two groups, leaving about three policemen dead and many others severely injured.
According to reports, the police team was taking a kidnap kingpin to the Command headquarters in Jalingo.
The best part of the story is that the kidnapper got away as the two groups were involved in the exchange of fire.
Instead of tackling the actual problem, there has been some sort of blame game going on between the men of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Army. The Army has released a statement from its Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, it says that the policemen were mistaken for kidnappers.
In the released statement, the Army said, “troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum, pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the Team.
“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim, exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about 10 and driving in a white bus with registration number LAGOS MUS 564 EU, refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive checkpoints. The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. 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”.
This response, however, did not go down well with the police force. To this report, the Police force says it further justifies the action of the Army. The Police also insists that the source of the distress call be made known including the identity of the complainant.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, in responding to the Army statement said, “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”.
After all, said and done, what looks like it could have been averted with proper communication ended up being the end of three policemen. From this end, there seem to be some uncovered stories here. What if the man of the Nigerian Army knew who the men in the bus were but were more interested in showing supremacy?
What about the part that there is a possibility that the policemen were attacked by the kidnaper’s group disguised as men of the Nigerian Army? Or is it also out of place to say that there are chances that the military men deployed to that part of the country are locally involved with the kidnapers in that area and were only trying to cover their tracks through releasing the arrested kidnapper?
Well well well, these are all speculations but nonetheless, there is a need for answers from the various parties involved.
Dr. Ona Ekhomu, President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety operation of Nigeria, AISSON, describing the incident as a “preventable tragedy” said the violent quotient in Taraba State is too high and that is what played out on the Biu-Jalingo highway on 6th of August.
He advised that there should be a reduction in the use of the military to perform public law enforcement duties to further prevent the occurrence of such actions.
We hope that this awakens the law and security outfits in Nigeria to an era of proper coordination and transparency. There should be an emphasis on National and citizen Security being the aim of their individual functions in their various line of action and not in the supremacy.