Residents flee Taraba towns over murder of policemen
Though the bodies of the three policemen allegedly killed by soldiers of the 93 Battalion in Taraba State have been evacuated to Abuja, the residents of the Ibi Local Government have remained gripped by fear for their safety.
The man at the centre of the controversy, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, who is believed to be a notorious kidnapper, hails from the area.
Consequently, many of the residents have continued to flee their homes following the presence of members of the police investigative team from Abuja and the massive arrest of suspected persons. The people are also afraid of possible reprisal attack by the kidnap kingpin and his gang members who are allegedly on the run.
The residents, who had earlier rolled out drums and engaged in various dancing steps when the news of the arrest of Wadume went on air, said their joy was cut short by his alleged escape.
Some of the residents, who would not want their names in print, confirmed that they were fleeing “because we have the feeling that Wadume and his colleagues who are now on the run might launch an attack on us in revenge of the humiliation he went through at the hands of the police.”
It was learnt that the three slain policemen Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Dahiru Musa and Sergeant Usman Danzumi, were said to be part of the team that arrested kidnap kingpin, Evans. The deceased gallant officers also participated actively in the arrest of Umar Abdulmalik, who was the overall Boko Haram commander for the North-Central, and several of his group members.
Though the Taraba police command declined to comment on the issue, the killed security agents, who also facilitated the arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnap of the Chibok school girls in Borno State, were said to have duly registered their presence in the state, down to the Ibi area command where the sad incident occurred.
As at the time of filing this report, the Ibi community had almost been deserted.
It was gathered that property belonging to Wadume, including houses and vehicles, had been confiscated by the police investigation team led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari.
Some of the community leaders, who believe that “Wadume is the young man responsible for the recent bad blood between the Nigeria Army and the police”, wondered how he became rich overnight.
One of the leaders said: “We know his history. We have been questioning his source of wealth. He was allegedly freed by the Army while they dispossessed the police who were conveying him to Jalingo, the state capital, from Ibi, his hometown where he was arrested.
“He became an instant millionaire with no traceable job, leaving the people to speculate that he is either into blood money business or kidnapping, which have now become lucrative in Southern Taraba.”
The leader, who did not want his name published, however, said: “Wadume is very kindhearted to the community and the army stationed in Southern Taraba. He is a charity and cheerful giver who can spend up to N20million a day settling bills of the less privileged in his community.
“He is the only philanthropist In Ibi Local Government that has empowered and is still empowering the youths either by giving them interest-free loans as capital to start up a business, or purchasing vehicles, motorbikes and flying boards for them to earn a living.”
On Wadume’s relationship with the army, the elder said “it is very cordial because he is their leading benefactor in terms of welfare and other privileges.”
“Despite his gesture to the community, there is still skepticism about his source of wealth, prompting some people to relate the matter to the police who placed him under serious investigations for months before carrying out that sting operation that led to the encounter with the military men who are now claiming that they were not given prior notice about the operation,” the elder added.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has accused the police of making inciting comments on the social media over the killing of the policemen in Taraba.
The army, in a letter by Brig. General F.D. Omoigui on behalf of Chief of Army Staff in the aftermath of the killing in Taraba on August 6, said inciting and inflammatory comments were being made by the police on the regular and social media platforms.
“This is capable of inciting the rank and file of Nigerian Police to exhibit aggressive tendencies against Nigerian Army personnel. Accordingly, all troops on IS duty as well as personnel travelling in and out uniform are to be circumspect in their conduct to avoid escalation,” the letter read.
The police authorities had on Wednesday announced the killing of its personnel by troops on Ibi-Wukari road in Taraba and alleged that the suspected kidnappers in custody of the attacked officers were released by the troops.
The army headquarters, in a reaction, described the incident as “unfortunate and avoidable” while explaining its own side of the story. It said that the said army troops, while responding to a distress call to rescue a kidnapped victim, exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers on Ibi-Wukari road in the state.
The police, in a counter reaction on Thursday, had raised a number of questions that the army authorities needed to unravel, especially the whereabouts of the arrested Wadume.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum yesterday condemned the killing of the three policemen. The chairman of the forum and Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, in a statement in Abuja, also condemned the killing of Mr. Chimaobi Nwaogwu, a commercial motorcyclist, in Abia State by a security personnel.
Dickson described the killings as “unfortunate, sad, tragic, wicked, malicious, unprofessional and totally unacceptable” to the people of the country.
“We wish to reiterate that the killings are unnecessary. It is sad that a security personnel, who is paid and maintained with tax-payers’ money, could turn around to kill the person he was paid to protect.”
The Bayelsa governor urged the Federal Government to redress the situation immediately, saying it portrayed “signs of inefficiency and irresponsibility.”
“We implore the Federal Government to adequately compensate the families of the victims and ensure justice is served on the culprits.”
Also, Nwogu, 30, was on Wednesday alleged to have been shot dead by a military officer at a checkpoint at Umuokereke Ngwa Community of Abia State.
A statement by Col. Aliyu Yusuf, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, has said that authorities of the 82 division, Nigerian Army, had arrested the soldier responsible for the killing.
“The soldier has since been arrested and detained. Disciplinary procedure is in progress. He will be tried according to extant military law and if found culpable will be dismissed and handed over to the police for prosecution,” he said.
Furthermore, the presidency yesterday said that contrary to suggestions of indifference, President Muhammadu Buhari was disposed to taking appropriate actions over the killing of the three officers and a civilian.
Nigerians on social media had criticised Buhari for not doing enough to get to the root of the matter.
But the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, explained that the president was only bidding his time until the investigation being conducted by the Defence Headquarters is submitted.
He said: “Contrary to those mischievous insinuations, President Buhari had ordered the Chief of Defence Staff to set up an investigation committee with representatives from all the security organisations in the country, including the police force.
“The President is not indifferent to the unfortunate incident and would take decisive action as soon as the report of the panel is submitted to him. He is following due process and procedure. Putting the cart before the horse is not President Buhari’s way of doing things. Nigerians should show patience while the President awaits the report of the panel from the Chief of Defence Staff.”