Tragic news filled the Nigeria space when on the 7th of August, 2019 three men of the Nigeria Police Force and a civilian where killed along the Ibi-Jalingo Road by soldiers whose agency have come out to describe the sad incidence as one of mistaken identity and the failure of the officers to properly identify themselves.
With the Nigeria Police Force tweeting away counter claims to the army’s stating that its men did properly identify themselves, one thing becomes abundantly clear- the lack of operational synergy and exchange of information amongst Nigeria’s security forces, and even more, the underlying bubble of mutual distrust and resentment that may be the wrench in the works of inter-agency cooperation.
The three police officers who died have now been identified as a crack unit under the Inspector-General of Police ‘s Intelligence Response Team ( IRT) – a well-trained unit with an impressive record of apprehending elusive bandits, kidnappers and other militants against the Nigeria state. On this particular day, they were reported to have successfully arrested one Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, identified as a notorious king-pin and kidnap enabler, and were transporting same back to Abuja when they met their gruesome fate.
A curious twist to the whole sordid affair is the failure of the Nigeria Army to produce the suspect who somehow survived the shoot-out. Alhaji Wadume remains untraceable yet wanted and it isbtrult an indictment on the Army that its men, even if unknowingly, secured the release of a suspect of kidnapping and have failed to have him returned to the Police for prosecution now that the facts have been laid out and their mistake called out.
It is truly troubling to note that the Nigeria state have normalized the intervention of soldiers in matters which are legally strictly within the purview of the Nigeria Police Force and sister-agencies saddled with the country’s internal security. Let’s note that the soldiers who took out the police unit where not on a routine patrol but were called by an unidentified individual, following which they gave hot pursuit and engaged the Police Unit in a gun battle that went awry for the latter.
The Nigeria Army ought to be an agency whose strict duty are restricted to protecting Nigeria ‘s territorial integrity and not deployed or called into civil matters. That such a convention is allowed and operated in Nigeria is symptomatic of a malady and as we now see can only lead to costly conflict and confrontations.
We would like to call on the nation’s Chief Security Officer, President Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure that a neutral investigative panel is set up to unearth and ascertain the entire truth of what transpired between the now deceased officers, the soldiers and the now missing Alhaji Wadume. Only the truth can ease and pave way for true reconciliation between the Nigeria Police and Army. It is imperative that the public are put in the know of the findings of this special committee as it would serve as a reference point in the future.
Nigeria must count its losses in the form of this special duty cops whose lives were cut short while in active duty on behalf of the government. Their death, while needless and regretful, affords the Nigeria Police an opportunity to be reflective in putting its own house in order. There have been several deaths of innocent members of the public in the hands of men of the Nigeria Police Force over mistaken identity. With the police itself now caught in the there, it is hoped that it will actively reposition itself to do better in curbing the indiscriminate killing of people by its trigger-happy cops.
The Nigeria Army must likewise be made to take responsibility for the actions of its soldiers as only then can remedy and restitution be gained. It is beginning to earn itself notoriety for regrettable killings and operations made worse by a failure to punish individual perpetrators within its rank. The Nigeria Army is no where above the law and must be subject to disciplinary actions deemed fit and just in circumstances such as this.
As a group, we extend our condolences to the surviving family members and friends of the slain policemen, we express the hope therein that the Nigeria Government will setup a special fund as a palliative or amelioration of the sudden burden incurred by this deaths. We also hope that maximum training will become a key feature of the Police and Army, while a stimulus for inter-agency cooperation and exchange of information will be undertaken with alacrity to forestall any such future occurrences.