Residents of the Federal Capital Territory [FCT], Abuja and other Nigerians woke up yesterday to the very disturbing news of the brutal killing of seven policemen at the Galadimawa Round-about in Abuja. Galadimawa is a sprawling native settlement just off the Umaru Yar’adua Expressway [otherwise known as Airport Road]. It is also very close to some of Abuja’s largest estates and a stone’s throw away from the National Judicial Institute, NJI.
The killings occurred around 9pm on Monday, according to witnesses, when traffic on that junction was still heavy. Two civilians were also killed by stray bullets. Construction work to transform Galadimawa round-about into a flyover has been ongoing for two years now but has recently stalled. The ongoing work also reduced the roundabout to a single lane and hundreds of vehicles struggle to pass through especially after the close of work every day. In the evening, policemen also set up a stop and search point in the middle of the single lane, thus compounding the traffic situation.
It was this police team that was virtually wiped out in the attack. The police must conclude their investigations in order to establish exactly what happened because killing seven policemen, all of them heavily armed, in one fell swoop is fishy indeed. Moreover, the policemen usually spread themselves thin at a check point. While one or two stop and search vehicles, the others strategically position themselves many metres away. Some witnesses said the assailants opened fire when their vehicle was stopped, but that can hardly account for the killing of so many policemen who are spread out. Other witnesses said the team was ambushed. Again, it will require many attackers to do so since they are spread out and also have heavy weapons.
The apparent motive for the attack was to steal their weapons. Reports say after the killing, the attackers snatched some rifles and escaped in a get-away vehicle. Such a brutal, audacious, wicked and totally unconscionable killing of seven security agents as well as passers-by just to get hold of their weapons indicates that the perpetrators of this crime were criminals of the worst order. What they will do with the weapons they stole can only be imagined. In fact, this cold-blooded operation is more indicative of terrorists than ordinary criminals. While the later often fear for their lives because their aim is to steal and enjoy the loot, confronting seven heavily armed policemen was a virtual suicide operation with a high possibility of getting killed in the process.
This is all the more reason why the police must step up efforts to apprehend these criminals before they perpetrate more atrocities with the stolen weapons. FCT Police Commissioner Sadiq Bello said when he visited the crime scene that men of the police Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Division had already swung into action to apprehend the culprits. We are confident that they will do it. Even though criminals get away with too many things in Nigeria, the police these days almost always succeed in solving the most high-profile cases especially of robbery, kidnapping and murder. They have less success with mass murder but even there, we have seen the parading of some suspects from the Benue and Plateau killings. The speed with which the police apprehended the Offa robbers alone gives us confidence that they will apprehend these ones as well.
It is doubly important to do so because the regularity with which cops are killed in the line of duty these days suggests that criminals are beginning to see the lives of policemen as cheap and expendable. Less than a day before the Galadimawa killings, two policemen were killed at a checkpoint in Maderegi village, in FCT’s Abaji Local Area Council. This trend must be reversed immediately.
We commiserate with the police high command for this tragedy. We urge the authorities to step forward and support the families of the slain cops. They did not die in vain.