Army, Police in hot exchange over slain cops

The Nigerian Army has said the “fragrant refusal of the undercover cops that were earlier suspected to be kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints led to exchange of fire between them and soldiers, which caused the death of four policemen in Takum, Taraba state.”

Army spokesperson, Col. Sagir Musa stated this in a statement Thursday in Abuja.

But the police are insisting the army was being economical with the truth, saying what the soldiers did was to ‘rescue’ Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, a kidnap kingpin arrested by the IGP squad.

Troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba state, Tuesday shot dead some policemen and one civilian “in error after they were mistaken for kidnappers.”

Army clarifies

Stating its own side of the story however, army spokesman, Col. Musa said the troops exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers.

He said:  “The unfortunate incident that occurred on the 6th of August 2019 in which 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 distress call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba state.

“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten (10) and driving  in a white bus with Reg No LAGOS MUS 564 EU refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive check points.

“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.

 “In the  resultant fire fight,  four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) others  sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment.

“However,  following inquiries from a  Police station officer who was asked by the commander of the Army troops whether he was aware of any Nigerian Police team being dispatched to operate in the LGA, the Divisional  Police Officer of Ibi Police  Division responded that he was not informed about any operation by the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters, thus lending credence to the distress call from members of the community that the suspects who turned out to be policemen on a covert mission were rather suspected kidnappers.

“This incident is indeed quite unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison as the Nigerian Police Force are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst myriads of other internal security threats confronting our nation of which the Nigerian Police is the lead agency.

“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian Police have agreed to constitute a Joint Investigation Panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident. Therefore, until the Joint Investigation Panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate but very avoidable incident.”

‘Army wrong’

But the Police took a strong exception to the Army’s position over the killing.

Force Public Relations Officer DCP Frank Mba faulted the explanation offered by the army in a statement, Thursday night, titled: Setting the record straight –where Is the “rescued” notorious kidnapper Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume?

Mba said: “The attention of the NPF has been drawn to the press release by the Nigerian Army dated August 7, 2019, seeking to justify the unprovoked and unwarranted murder of three police officers and one 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 series of high-profile kidnap incidents in the state.

“In the best tradition of esprit de corps, inter-agency harmony and national interest, the NPF 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.”

“The Force also considers 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.”

 DHQ intervenes

 Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters  has said it would  set up a special panel to investigate the clash between the two security agencies.

Chief  of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said this Thursday in Abuja.

He spoke to State House correspondents at the end of a National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying  the incidence required critical examination.

“The council decided that a committee will be set up under the Defence Headquarters to critically investigate the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident in Ibi, Taraba state,” he said.

The NAF boss said the council was satisfied with the progress made in the are of tackling the current security challenges in the country.

“The council evaluated the current strategy of managing internal security operations all over the country and we are satisfied with the current efforts, we are making substantial progress in all the areas of conflict,” Sadique said.

He assured Nigerians of their safety, stating that that technology would continue to play a critical role in addressing security challenges in the country.

He further said, “All the services are using one form of technology or the other in order to ensure that our country is secured so technology will continue to play a role and we are also looking at other areas of technology that are not currently in use, to ensure that we put together all that is required to ensure security of Nigeria and Nigeria.”

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