An episode that is shaking the foundations of the relationship between the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army, the killing of three policemen as well as a civilian in Taraba State on Wednesday is still sending shock waves across the minds of many Nigerians.
A jarring video in circulation shows the immediate aftermath of the mindless murders of the police officers, attached to the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) with one of them, in the throes of death, not spared despite begging, with incalculable desperation.
The video begins with one of the slain officers in a red attire and alone beside their bus apparently turned over through an accident that must have occurred from the hot chase that ensued after the team was ambushed by the soldiers. Seconds later, it moves to the other side as three bloodied people lay dead while one, in a striped white and green Polo shirt, is on the floor and writhing in agony.
A man in yellow tee shirt hands the ignition key of the white Toyota bus with number plate: Lagos MUS 564 EU, to a man not visible in the video. “Here is the key of the vehicle,” he said in Hausa language.
The body of the vehicle, like the murdered policemen, was riddled with bullets as the mob continues cursing the fallen officers. “We will deal with you, you unlucky ones. They showed us ID cards that they were from the IG (Inspector General of Police). Till all of you die, another said, also in Hausa. As this goes on, a booming voice from the crowd of mostly soldiers, many of them not in uniforms, commended the mob and said: “Well done guys, you did well.” Lending further credence to reports that the killings were premeditated, another unidentified voice said: “Let’s set them ablaze with the vehicle,” a suggestion another, perhaps a personnel of a higher rank, responded to almost immediately with an order: “No! Do not burn them.”
As the officer battling to stay alive turns as he continues to wriggle in pain, another person in a white fez cap, as if alarmed, shouted: “He is not dead! He is not dead” as he moves and rains a number of slaps on him as the dying man fell back in a sleeping position. Calling on others’ attention, another asked: “Where is their service pistol?” as another swiftly responded:
“They have been collected and taken away.” In the meantime, a bulky frame in a yellow top with white fez cap is seen recording a video of the slain policemen as they made to cross check whether the while few minutes earlier had died finally.
Upon certifying him dead, a member of the crowd, as if in victory, shouted: “He is dead! He is dead!” Thereafter the glare falls on two of the killed policemen, one in a red shirt covered in his pool of blood and the other with a white striped shirt lying face down as the people surrounding them start plucking and dropping leaves and shrubs on them, a typical practice for accident victims. Even more harrowing is a scene in which it becomes clear that one of the fallen policemen, the last to give up, had defecated on his body shortly before succumbing to death finally.
Lifted by two men by the hands and legs, his corpse is dumped along with the others as a soldier with a riffle walks past the bodies, shouting: “He is defecating. Do not touch the faeces.” As the voices rise even further, a voice is heard in the background saying:
“They showed us ID cards that they were from the IG (Inspector General of Police). They met us at the check point. If they had escaped here, they would definitely not have escaped the road block at Wukari.”
Meanwhile, fresh information has emerged on what really went down between the police policemen and soldiers along Ibi-Jalingo Road, leading to the death of three policemen and a civilian. Security agents said the order to attack the policemen, who were on lawful duty to apprehend a suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, was given by an army captain, who is a friend of Wadume.
The unnamed army captain, it was learnt, is not just a friend, but allegedly also on Wadume’s pay roll. According to sources, the operatives, while heading to Ibi village to make the arrest, encountered military men at three check-points.
They introduced themselves, chatted with the soldiers and exchanged pleasantries. But when returning with the suspect, the same soldiers seen earlier at one of the check points pulled the triggers that ended the lives of three of the policemen.
“The road to Ibi village is very narrow and only that road leads to the village. You have to pass through it to enter or leave the small village. That was why when the policemen encountered the soldiers at the three checkpoints, they introduced themselves and stated what they came for. They chatted, joked and exchanged pleasantries.
The arrest was made within 20 minutes and while they were returning, soldiers at the first and second check points asked them if they were already through. The soldiers and operatives know one another, but the phone call from a top military personnel changed everything,” a source disclosed.
One of our reporters gathered that the policemen were attacked at the second military check-point in the village.
It was further learnt that the policemen were taken unawares as the soldiers allegedly opened fire on the bus conveying the operatives, with the shocked driver losing control of his wheel, leading the bus to somersault under the barrage of gun fire.
Policemen, who were fast enough to crawl out of the damaged vehicle fled into the bush and the soldiers, upon getting to the scene and realising they were still alive, shot three operatives and a civilian among them at close range.
Two of the recovered corpses had bullet holes in their stomach, the other two, had bullet holes in their chests. Ibi is a small community and within a twinkle of an eye, the scene of the accident and attack swarmed with people and as the soldiers labelled the policemen kidnappers, the people went wild with jubilation.
The arrival of the people to the scene actually saved the lives of two policemen, who had earlier crawled to hide. It was gathered that they would have been shot dead too, but for the crowd and they were taken to a part of the army base where deliberations were held regarding whether to kill them or not. One of the soldiers told his colleagues that killing them would be too risky because most of the villagers already captured them alive on their smart phones. Upon telling them the videos would give them away, the soldiers reluctantly took them to a hospital.
A security source said: “The three IRT operatives were brutally murdered while on investigation duty in Taraba State by personnel of the Nigerian Army. It is believed that these soldiers and their boss are working for the kidnapper, Wadume, who was later released.
The operatives, who were on a follow-up in an ongoing kidnapping investigation, led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Felix Adolije, went to Taraba State with a letter detailing their inves- tigation and mission.
They were ambushed by the soldiers. Preliminary investigation showed that the kidnap kingpin, who is presently on the run, has many security personnel in Ibi, Taraba State on his pay roll. Operatives got to the police headquarters Jalingo, and perfected their papers as professionals.
Then they proceeded to Ibi Town, Taraba State, in their operational Toyota Hummer Bus.” The agent further said: “When the operatives got to Ibi town, they booked their arrival at the police station and proceeded with assistance from a policeman attached to them in the state headquarters, Jalingo, to trace and arrest Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, who is wanted because he is linked to several kidnappings in Taraba State, including a recent kidnapping in which N100million was collected as ransom.
After arresting Wadume, the operatives were heading to police headquarters at Jalingo, when gang members of Wadume, who are close to an army captain serving in Ibi town, called the army and told him that his friend had been kidnapped.
“Without any verification or inquiries, the army captain ordered his men along the highway to ambush the policemen. Thus, as the team was moving along Ibi-Jalingo Road, they came under the hail of bullets from soldiers.
The soldiers came from behind with another vehicle, as a result the policemen’s bus summersaulted. Thereafter, two policemen and one civilian agent were shot to death by the soldiers at close range.
The policemen were shot despite presenting their police identification cards. These policemen also wore police jackets. All the policemen were alive when their vehicles somersaulted. Two operatives, Inspector Mark Idiale and Inspector Abah Mathias, were seriously injured with bullets.
They are now receiving treatment at the General Hospital Wukari in Taraba State. Policemen from Ibi Area Command responded to calls and took the injured and dead officers to the hospital. Wadume, who was rescued and released by the soldiers, is presently on the run.
”It is believed that Wadume and other members of his gang escaped with him to a location outside Ibi Town. One AK47 rifle and two pistols belonging to the late police officers were carted away by the gang members of Wadume who came to the scene with the soldiers while two of the police AK47 rifles are with the soldiers as admitted by one of their personnel at the scene.
Following the killings of the policemen, the military high command issued a press release attempting to exonerate its men and this forced the Nigeria Police Force to issue a stiff counter statement, raising posers and demanding answers to several puzzles in the case, one of which was the demand for the military to present Wadume.
Force Spokesman, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Frank Mba, mentioned the names of the murdered policemen as Inspector Mark Edaile from Edo State, Sergeant Usman Danzumi from Taraba State and Sergeant Dahiru Musa from Taraba State.
Mba said: “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. Until their untimely death in the hands of soldiers of 93 Battalion Takum, Taraba State, these officers have participated in several high profile and high risk arrests, rescue missions and investigative operations.” Killed police operatives among the best in the land
The FPRO listed some of the operations to include the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans.
The arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in Borno State; the arrest of Umar Abdulmalik, the overall Boko Haram Commander of North-Central and several of his group members; the arrest of the kidnappers of two American and two Canadian citizens in Kaduna State.
“And most recently, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura in Kano State and arrest of 13 terrorists responsible for the kidnapping of the Magajin Garin Daura in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State on May 1, 2019, among many other outstanding feats,” Mba stressed.
This is the first time in many years of the silent war between police and soldiers that the police appear ready to throw their weight behind its men and demand the truth and justice.
Recent history of burning stations, killing of policemen by soldiers On October 4, 2005, soldiers and policemen had a confrontation at Area C Police Command, Ojuelegba, which led to the death of many policemen. The attack was later described as a massacre as soldiers set the station on fire, freed detainees and allowed the police armoury to be looted. Policemen at the station, who survived, either had to hide in toilets or fled through windows and back ways.
Till date, no soldier has been arrested over the burning of the station or death of the policemen. When the military responded, it stated that the act was carried out by unknown soldiers, with the police hierarchy claiming it was still investigating the matter when it finally reacted to the case.
Also, some years ago, three policemen, including the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Badagry, were shot dead by soldiers from nearby barracks and as was the norm, it was attributed to unknown soldiers. Nigerians in shock, activist reacts The murdered of the three operatives and their civilian friend, followed by viral videos of the scene of the attack, has generated a buzz in the social media and among members of the Civil Society Organisations.
A human rights activist, Okechukwu Nwanguma, who is the Executive Director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RLAAC), while speaking on the matter said: “There are many reasons to doubt the Nigerian Army’s claims of ‘mistaken identity’ as excuse for the murder of the IRT operatives.
That plea does not explain why they shot at the officers at close range and continued to maltreat the ones battling for life after being shot even after they identified themselves as police officers. It does not also explain the immediate release of the arrested kidnap suspect.
There is something fishy. They probably have something to cover which only an independent and impartial inquiry, perhaps, a judicial panel of inquiry will unravel. There have been allegations of diversion of security funds, military and security agencies’ collusion/ involvement in crime and sabotage of efforts to combat kidnapping and insurgency. Nigerians should insist on this matter not being covered up like previous cases.
There’s the need to unravel the motive, and other circumstances surrounding this tragedy and identify appropriate measures to end interagency rivalry and also identify, isolate and neutralise saboteurs of the fight against insecurity in Nigeria.” Youths flee Taraba community for fear of police reprisals Hundreds of youths from Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State have fled their homes in fear of possible invasion of the town by security operatives in search of Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume allegedly rescued by soldiers from the Inspector General of Police Response Team earlier in the week, with three operatives left dead by soldiers who claimed they were kidnappers.
A combined team of soldiers and police detectives have intensified search in the community with the aim of arresting youths who allegedly took part in the killing of the three policemen and a civilian on Monday.
According to sources, the streets of Ibi have been deserted as most of the youth of the town have gone into hiding while some have temporarily relocated to nearby villages for safety. It was gathered that some of the youth and the soldiers facilitated the escape of the arrested suspected kidnapper Hamisu, arrested by the IRT policemen on a covert mission in Ibi and being taken to Jalingo. A source who pleaded anonymity told one of our correspondents:
“As soon as the news of the escape of Hamisu got to town and knowing that special forces will be coming the town to track him down, many of the young men ran out of town for safety to avoid arrest. The suspicion is that the young men took part in the killing of the policemen and and also aided the escape of Hamisu.” Our source disclosed that Hamisu has been a very generous person and has helped a lot of people in the area and so most of the youth will not want to betray him even if they know his whereabouts. Consequently, most of them have fled the town to safer places to hide pending the end of the tension before they will return homes. Another source said:
“The wanted kidnap suspect has been generous to the soldiers in Ibi. It was Hamisu who allegedly paid a ransom of N1.5 million when one of the soldiers was kidnapped few months ago.” Sources told our correspondent that between Tuesday and Friday, over 10 truck-load of soldiers have visited the community on fact-finding mission while over 20 senior police officers, some from Force Headquarters, Abuja, have continued to visit Ibi. Our correspondent recalls that Hamisu, who was arrested for complicity in several high-profile kidnappings in Taraba state, by the IRT policemen, was freed by men of the Nigerian Army. Efforts by our one of our correspondents to confirm the true position of things including likely arrests in Ibi from the police failed as the PRO, ASP David Misal, did not respond to several calls put across to him.