The fight that broke out last week in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, between soldiers and the mobile policemen was a rude shock and a great embarrassment to Nigerians and the authorities. The fight was particularly distressing because three policemen and a soldier lost their lives while several others sustained injuries. All of Damaturu’s hapless citizens were traumatized by the shooting that went on for many hours.
The fight came at a time when operatives of the two sister security agencies were working collectively to consolidate the peace restored in the Yobe State after years of intermittent invasions by Boko Haram terrorists that led to the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians and patriotic security agents. That misguided soldiers and mobile policemen took up arms against each other was very disturbing and it brought both disrepute and public ridicule to both agencies.
The fight began Tuesday, April 11 when a man was said to have interfered a police mobile squadron’s convoy, as a result of which he was manhandled. Sources said the man turned out to be an army officer, and soldiers under his command then embarked on a revenge mission. They went and kidnapped the Mobile Police Force’s commandant, detained him at Kukareta on the outskirts of Damaturu, manhandled him and shot him twice. The following day, mobile policemen went to a military formation at the Presidential Lodge to free their commandant. Soldiers killed three of them while the Mopols killed a soldier.
The wounded commandant, Dauda Buba Fika, who was in charge of Mopol Unit 41, narrowly escaped death. He was later released due to the intervention of senior officers of the two security outfits and the Yobe State government and was taken to the Damaturu Specialist Hospital. The bloody face off between the two forces lasted till around 11am on Wednesday. It grounded social and economic activities in Damaturu. Everyone at first thought that Boko Haram had invaded the town once more. Civil servants, traders, pupils and students all remained indoors that day for fear of the unknown.
We strongly condemn the armed faceoff between two sister security agencies in Damaturu who are there to guard the city against further terrorist attacks. That they took up arms against one another exposed the unbelievable level of indiscipline that has permeated both agencies. While soldiers and policemen were once notorious for intimidating and harassing civilians, it’s appalling that they visited the same act on themselves instead of consolidating peace and order.
A fight of this nature will not only sabotage peace processes but will carelessly erode mutual trust among various security agencies and the end result will be disastrous. No wonder that several groups and associations condemned the fight and called for probe and punishment for the perpetrators. The Network of Yobe Civil Society Organizations (NYCSO) through its secretary, Dauda Muhammed Gombe, said the fracas “renewed fears in the minds of the residents that have been enjoying relative peace for almost two years.”
We therefore commend the joint committee of Nigerian Army and Nigeria Police Force that has been set up to investigate the violent clash. The statement by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations Colonel Kayode Ogunsoya who described those involved in the fight as “unguided soldiers and policemen,” was commendable and apt. According to him, “A joint committee between the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police has been set up to investigate the incident. This Headquarters wishes to assure the members of the public that the situation has been brought under control and normalcy has been restored.”
Of equal importance was the timely intervention of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam through his deputy, Engr. Abubakar D. Aliyu who hosted leaders of the security agencies in his office for a discussion on the way forward. We expect a timely conclusion of investigation into the matter to allay fears of the public.
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