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Soldiers in cold-blooded murder

The lack of synergy among security agencies in the country was exposed last week when three policemen sent on special assignment from the Force Headquarters in Abuja were killed by soldiers at a checkpoint in Taraba state. In a statement last Wednesday, police spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, said the police operatives went there to arrest one Alhaji Hamisu Wadume who had been indicted severally for high-profile kidnap incidents in the state.

Mba said the police operatives, led by ASP Felix Adolije of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), reportedly came under fire from soldiers of the Nigerian Army. He said the operatives were taking the arrested suspect to the Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo. Apart from the three operatives one civilian also died, while others sustained serious gunshot wounds. Faulting the army, Mba said the soldiers released handcuffed Wadume, who is now on the run.

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Wadume had been on the police wanted list for several high-profile kidnap cases, including the recent abduction of an oil mogul in Taraba state wherein a ransom of about N100 million was paid. IGP Mohammed Adamu has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killings.

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In a tribute to the slain policemen, DCP Frank Mba said they consisted of some of the most disciplined, proficient and hardworking police investigators in the service of the nation. He gave their names as Inspector Mark Edaile, Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa. He said the officers had participated in several high profile and high-risk arrests, rescue missions and investigative operations, including the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans. They were instrumental to the arrest of 20 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok Schoolgirls in Borno State. They were involved in the recent rescue of Magajin Garin Daura in Kano State, as well as the arrest of thirteen suspects responsible for Magajin Garin Daura’s kidnap.

Reacting to statements by DCP Mba, the Acting Director Army Public Relations Colonel Sagir Musa claimed that the soldiers involved were in pursuit of suspected ‘kidnappers’ who turned out to be members of IRT. Not many Nigerians would buy this illogical and warped line of argument. Other revelations about the tragedy, including a video recording released by the police, showed that the officers had pleaded with the soldiers to spare their lives because they were policemen on special assignment. Not minding the plea, the soldiers shot the operatives in cold blood. The conduct of the soldiers was unprofessional, giving room the speculations of compromise.

A press statement released by the Acting Director Defence Information, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, said the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, had since constituted a 7-man Joint Investigation Panel under the headship of Rear Admiral I.T Olaiya, to unravel the circumstances that led to the unfortunate incident. We urge the team to carry out a thorough and dispassionate investigation. The army should not be seen to hide mischievous conducts of its officers in their typical espirit de corps, hiding the truth in the name of saving the face of the army and the heads of their men.

No doubt the IRT unit of the police has provided the silver lining needed in the fight against kidnappers and terrorists. The country spent a lot of money to train this set of personnel.  Officers in that unit have demonstrated the kind of expertise that Nigerians want replicated all over Nigeria in order to fight besetting crimes. This cold-blooded murder could be demotivating.

The police and the military should see themselves as partners in the fight against all crimes. While we call for inter-agency collaboration among security agencies, we urge the panel set up to investigate the incident to conclude its assignments with minimum delay. The report should come up with a workable strategy for inter-agency collaboration, and it should be made public.

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