Police, DHQ deny alleged arrests over Taraba killings

The Nigeria Police Force yesterday denied knowledge of the arrest of any of its personnel over the killing of three policemen in Taraba State by soldiers.
The police stated this in response to reports (not in The Guardian) that two policemen working at the Ibi Division in Taraba State were arrested by the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters to investigate the killings, for allegedly leaking information to the suspected kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume, of plans to arrest him.

The panel was also reported to have ordered the arrest of five soldiers who were at the army checkpoint. It was further reported that 60 people alleged to be working for the suspected kidnap kingpin were on the run.

The panel was said to have also dismantled the two army checkpoints along the road where the killings occurred while the bodies of those killed had been conveyed to Abuja.A source was quoted as saying that among those being hunted were drivers of commercial vehicles and motorcycles belonging to the kidnap suspect.

But when The Guardian contacted the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, he denied knowledge of the arrest of any policeman by the army investigative panel in respect of the matter.

The Director of Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who also said he was not aware of the arrest of any police officer because he was not a member of the army investigative panel, added that Nigerians should be concerned with the outcome of the probe. Nwachukwu, who noted that the seven-man panel had a timeline to conclude its findings, said the duration could be extended to ensure that a thorough job was done. According to him, the panel headed by Rear Admiral I.T Olaiya has representatives from the army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services (DSS) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA).

The deceased policemen were shot by soldiers while conveying Wadume along Ibi-Jalingo road in Taraba. The army said the soldiers mistook the police officers for kidnappers. It disclosed that the troops were responding to a distress call on a purported kidnap incident within the area, but the police dismissed the claim.

No date has been announced for the burial of the slain officers. In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, Mba said as a subject of active investigation and national interest, no date would be announced until all relevant authorities had concluded their investigation.

According to him, the bodies of the deceased policemen, which arrived at the morgue of the Garki General Hospital in Abuja early Sunday, are currently undergoing autopsy to unravel the mystery surrounding their death.The force spokesman, who declined to comment on the preliminary report of the investigation, assured Nigerians that they would be properly briefed at the end of the investigation.

Meanwhile, a retired commissioner of police, Mr. Lawrence Alobi, has said the killing of the policemen in Taraba had great security implications for the country. Alobi, who made the comment in an interview with The Guardian yesterday in Abuja, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of keeping mum since the incident occurred.

“It is a very serious development and no statement has been made by Mr. President since the incident occurred. The police are suffering because we have a military president; the military may find this offensive, but it’s true. The military has been running down the police for a very long time now,” he said.

According to Alobi, “The sad incident has a very serious implications in this country. The Nigeria Police Force is a critical agency for democracy. Without the police, there would be nothing like democracy, rule of law and human rights, because police are the custodians of human rights.”

To him, any attack on the police is an attack on the government and people of Nigeria.“The action of the soldiers who killed the policemen is callous, criminal, ungodly and unacceptable anywhere in the world. It is also a serious threat to the internal security of the country because it implies that the two agencies which are supposed to protect the country are now killing each other.

“When Shagari was trying to use the police as the third force to check coups in the country, the military saw the police as a threat. The military has been running down the police so that the people will not trust the police.”He lauded the inspector general of police for restraining his officers from reacting to the situation. “A reprisal attack would have been terrible. If it was a policeman that killed a soldier, there would have been attacks everywhere.”Alobi called for a reorientation of army personnel as a way of preventing a future occurrence.

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