Defence Headquarters has ordered 93 Battalion of Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State, to produce the fleeing kidnap kingpin, Mr Hamisu Wadume, as evidence that its soldiers are not culpable in his escape after three policemen and a civilian were killed at a checkpoint in Ibi, last Tuesday.
A top military source at DHQ confided in one of our correspondents on Monday that the battalion had been issued a directive to produce the runaway kidnapper.
The top military source said, “The panel may not commence serious activities until after the Eid-el Kabir break. Army had directed the battalion in Takum to produce the runaway kidnapper as evidence that its soldiers are not culpable.
“The military will not hesitate to dismiss and court-martial any soldier found to be involved in shady business than allow the reputation of the Army to be toyed with.”
Also, Nigerian Army headquarters confirmed that the captain who ordered the killing of the policemen and the civilians was being cross-examined at 93 Battalion of Nigerian Army, in Taraba State.
Findings by one of our correspondents on Monday however showed that the DHQ panel had yet to visit Taraba State but the IGP investigative team had been in Taraba.
Acting Director, Defence Information, Mr Onyema Nwachukwu, had said the panel was in “compliance with the directive issued by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the joint committee has commenced work immediately.”
The Intelligence Response Team of the police led by ASP Felix Adolije had come under attack from soldiers along the Ibi-Jalingo Road while taking a kidnap kingpin, Wadume, to the Command Headquarters in Jalingo.
Three officers – Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danzumi, Dahiru Musa and a civilian – died as a result of gunshot injuries.
Nigerian Army had claimed that soldiers fired at the IRT team because they failed to stop at three checkpoints, but this was dismissed by the police which demanded the whereabouts of the kidnap suspect allegedly freed by the soldiers.
Soldiers who killed policemen moved to Abuja
However, the arrested soldiers involved in the shootings were being detained in Takum before they were moved to Abuja, according to a top police source on Monday night.
The police source added that some police officers from Ibi division and other civilians who arrived early at the scene of the incident were also moved to Abuja to furnish the seven-man joint investigation panel about what transpired during the incident.
President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered Defence headquarters to set up the panel to probe into the tragedy.
DHQ had on Friday named a seven-man joint investigation panel, headed by Mr Ibikunle Olaiya, a navy Rear Admiral, which has officers drawn from the army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services and Defence Intelligence Agency.
The top police officer based in Taraba State but was attached to the IGP investigative team told one of our correspondents that the Army Captain from 93 Ada Barracks Takum who ordered the killings was called for questioning during the visit of the team.
He said, “The soldiers who killed the three police officers and the two civilians have been moved to Abuja. I can’t tell how many they are, but they were moved alongside some police officers attached to Ibi division and some early callers at the scene who have useful information regarding the incident.
“From the video which we perused during the visit to Ibi, which I believe you also saw on social media, one of the police officers was trying to identify himself with his ID card that they were police officers, yet they went ahead and shot at him.
“It’s really unfortunate, we have to calm our boys or else we would have had another incident this time police shooting soldiers while we were in Ibi. Five of those killed have been taken to Abuja too for autopsy,” he said.
He, however, could not confirm whether the captain was also taken to Abuja.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr David Misal, who declined comments on the issue, however, said five of those killed have been moved to Abuja.
“All the information you need now is with Force PRO in Abuja, so there is little I can tell you,” he said.
However, a senior police officer in the Force headquarters in Abuja confirmed to one of our correspondents that some suspects including soldiers arrested in Taraba State had been moved to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Abuja.
The source, however, could not provide the number of the suspects.
As of the time of filing this report it was gathered that two military checkpoints along the Ibi-Wukari Road had been dismantled.
It was also gathered that the Police intelligence team who are trailing the fleeing kidnap kingpin have traced his location to Lafia, Nasarawa State, where he allegedly withdrew money from an ATM.
Buratai orders travelling soldiers to dress in mufti
Following killing of the three police officers, Chief of Army Staff, Mr Tukur Buratai, has directed troops on internal security duties to be cautious in their dealings with members of the police force.
Buratai also admonished travelling military personnel to do so in mufti in order to avoid confrontations with policemen.
The COAS in a letter dated August 9 and copied to all Army formations nationwide accused the police of making inflammatory comments in the social media which he said was capable of inciting the rank and file of Nigeria Police to “exhibit aggressive tendencies against the NA personnel.”
The letter with reference number AHQDAIOPS/G3/240/232 written on behalf of the COAS by Mr F. Omoigui, was titled, ‘Need for troops to be circumspect in dealing with members of Nigeria Police.’
It read in part, “Accordingly, all troops on IS (Internal Security) duty as well as personnel travelling in and out of uniform are to be circumspect in their conduct to avoid escalation.
“Consequently, formations and unit commanders are to educate troops to be cautious in their dealings with members of the NP in view of this development. Troops travelling on pass are to endeavour to do so in mufti.”
PDP govs seek justice for killed policemen, others
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum on Monday urged Mr Buhari to ensure that the soldiers that killed three police officers and a civilian were punished according to the law.
The PDP governors in a statement signed by their chairman, Mr Seriake Dickson, who is also Bayelsa State Governor, condemned the killing of the police officers.
Dickson also condemned the killing of a commercial motorcyclist in Abia State, Mr Chimaobi Nwogu, allegedly by another soldier identified as Mr Ajayi Johnson.
He said, “We wish to reiterate that the killings are unnecessary. It is very pathetic that the Nigerian Army would abandon its constitutional role of defending the borders of the country from external aggression to descend into such lowly criminality. It is sad that a security personnel, who is paid and maintained with taxpayers’ money, could turn around to kill the person he is being paid to protect.
“We implore the Federal Government to adequately compensate families of victims and ensure justice is served on the culprits.”
Buhari awaits panel report, not indifferent to killings. – Presidency
However, Presidency said on Monday that Mr Buhari would take appropriate actions over the killing of three police officers and a civilian by soldiers, contrary to criticisms suggesting that he was indifferent.
The President came under attacks by Twitter users on Monday, who accused him of not doing enough to get to the root of the matter.
The attacks forced Senior Special Assistant to Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, to react, saying that Buhari was only waiting for the outcome of the investigation being conducted by Defence Headquarters.
In the tweets, one Twitter user, @PeterIjakpa, wrote, “The President is incompetent in all ramifications.”
Another tweet by @KentChidera, noted, “So there is no time duration for the investigation? This kind inquiry may last till 2023.”
Replying via his handle, @GarShehu, the President’s media aide wrote, “In response to press questions, I will confirm that a committee was set up during the National Security Council meeting to investigate the killing of three policemen and a civilian by soldiers in Taraba State.”
In another tweet, he wrote, “Contrary to those mischievous insinuations, Buhari had ordered Chief of Defence Staff to set up an investigation committee with representatives from all the security organisations in the country, including the police force.”
A third tweet denied that Buhari was indifferent, “The President is not indifferent to the unfortunate incident, and would take a decisive action as soon as the report of the panel is submitted to him.”