Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Nigerian Army has explained how its troops on internal security operations in Taraba State, killed three police officers and a civilian on covert operations in the state.
The army said the incident which took place on August 6, happened when troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum, while responding to a distress call, pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who turned out to be officers from the IGP Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters Abuja on a covert assignment.
Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Saghir Musa, who made this known said the death of the operatives could have been avoided if there was proper coordination and liaison between the Nigeria Police Force and the various security agencies.
He said to make matters worse, even the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ibi Police Division was not aware of the presence of the IRT operatives when the army contacted the division thus raising further suspicion by the troops.
Notwithstanding, the army spokesman said the army has agreed to constitute a joint investigation panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killings to forestall a reoccurrence.
Saghir in a statement issued late on Wednesday night said: “The attention of the Army Headquarters has been drawn to the press release by DCP Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Abuja Ref No. CZ.5300/FPRD/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.2/68 dated 7th August, 2019 on the unfortunate incident that occurred on the 6th of August 2019 in which troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum pursued and exchanged fire with some suspected kidnappers who indeed turned out to be an Intelligence Response Team from the Police Force Headquarters Abuja on a covert assignment from Abuja resulting in the death and injury of some members of the team.
“On the 6th of August 2019, the said Nigerian Army troops, while responding to a distressed call to rescue a kidnapped victim exchanged fire with the suspected kidnappers along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten and driving in a white bus with Reg No Lagos MUS 564 EU, refused to stop when they were halted by troops at three consecutive checkpoints. The flagrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the three checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops. It was in this process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically, thus prompting them to return fire.
“In the resultant firefight, four suspects were shot and died on the spot while four others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and two others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja, for a covert assignment.
“However, following inquiries from a police station officer who was asked by the commander of the army troops whether he was aware of any Nigeria Police team being dispatched to operate in the LGA, the Divisional Police Officer of Ibi Police Division responded that he was not informed about any operation by the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters thus lending credence to the distressed call from members of the community that the suspects who turned out to be policemen on a covert mission were rather suspected kidnappers.
“This incident is indeed quite unfortunate and could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison as the Nigeria Police Force are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst myriads of other internal security threats confronting our nation of which the Nigeria Police is the lead agency.
“In order to avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigeria Police have agreed to constitute a joint investigation panel to be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, DIG Mike Ogbizi, to jointly investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident. Therefore, until the joint investigation panel concludes and submits its report, it will be premature to officially conclude and speak on the real circumstances that caused this unfortunate but very avoidable unfortunate incident.”