The brutal killing of three policemen of the special anti-kidnapping squad by some soldiers in Taraba State during an operation that led to the arrest of a kidnap kingpin has again underscored the inter-agency rivalry that exists among security operatives in the country. The unfortunate incident should have been avoided if there is a robust inter-agency collaboration in security matters.
If policemen on duty can be killed for no just cause by sister security agents, then something is definitely wrong with the way inter-agency relations and esprit de corps that ought to be there in the first place. It is good that a panel has been set up by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to unravel the circumstances that led to the ugly incident with a view to proffering solutions.
The panel should diligently investigate the matter and offer appropriate punishment for those responsible for the death of the policemen. The outcome of the probe must be made public. There should be no sacred cows in the matter. There should never be any attempt to cover up. The matter should not be swept under the carpet.
Good enough, the police and the army have given their own version of how the incident occurred. But the panel should even go beyond these accounts to arrive at the truth of the matter. The panel should invite members of the public to give account of what they know of the incident. Regardless of what the police and the army have said, it is the duty of the investigating panel to unravel the circumstances that led to the murder of policemen by soldiers.
But before the panel comes out with its findings, which Nigerians and even the international community are eagerly waiting for, there is urgent need to re-orientate the psyche of every security agent to the demands of his duty and gun handling and where to shoot a suspect if need be. The easy recourse to the trigger by security agents must be stopped. All security agencies must wean themselves of trigger-happy agents among them.
This has become necessary considering the wrong handling of guns by men in uniform and their easy resort to anger and use of deadly weapons on their victims. Many Nigerians have been brutalized by men in uniform. They have also been brutalized even by women in uniform. These security agents should know that the uniform does not confer on them the right to brutalize other Nigerians.
It does not make them superior to other Nigerians. It does not make them to be above the laws of the country. The brutality of men in uniform must stop forthwith. All security agents must abide by their rules of engagement either with sister agencies or the civilian population. The abuse of such rules must not be tolerated any longer.
Any security agent that flouts such rules must be given adequate punishment even if it means outright dismissal by the authorities. There should be operational guidelines on use of guns and other instruments of coercion by security agents. We have seen it with policemen on check points and the damage done to Nigerians by such willful act which is sometimes dubbed accidental discharge.
We have seen such tragic drama played out by soldiers on sister security agencies or on ‘bloody’ civilians for no just cause. The duty of any security agent is to secure the life and property of Nigerians. No law empowers any security man to take the life of another Nigerian. No policeman is allowed to kill a suspect but in Nigerian the reports of extra-judicial killings are scaring and legion.
In a worst case scenario, a suspect can only be arrested and handed over to the police. That is what the soldiers in Taraba ought to have done when their victims identified themselves as policemen on duty. The hasty execution of the policemen raises more questions which only the probe panel can decipher. The whereabouts of the kidnap kingpin involved in the matter should be ascertained.
Since the kingpin is at the centre of the Taraba tragic drama, he should be apprehended and prosecuted. Already, the relatives of some of the victims of the Taraba tragedy are calling for justice. There should be justice for all the victims whether their relatives call for it or not. The best the Nigerian state can give them at this point in time is justice and decent burial. Justice may not bring the dead back to life, it has a way of healing the wounds caused by their untimely but tragic demise.
Crimes proliferate in the country because the perpetrators of many heinous crimes have not been tried and convicted. Many of such perpetrators were not even arrested. And because many criminals get away with their crimes, many more people have taken to crimes as a way of life. The nation’s criminal justice system should be partly blamed for this state of affairs. There is urgent need for the overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system and make it more effective.
To stem the rise of inter-agency rivalry, there is need to organize regular workshops for them. They should be made to understand that all of them should work together for the good of all Nigerians. No arm of the security agency should feel superior over the other. Like the parts of the human body, they should do their individual part to ensure that Nigeria, the whole body, works well.
Any discord among them would be detrimental to the peaceful co-existence of the country. Any discord among them will definitely lead to operational disharmony and inefficiency. There is also the need for inter-agency collaboration in all security matters including the ongoing war against insurgency, kidnapping and banditry. The nation can only win all these wars if there is inter-agency collaboration and mutual respect among them. There must share intelligence and even operational strategies.
The Taraba tragedy ought to have been avoided if the soldiers exercised some caution. The security agencies should be made to peacefully co-exist. They should not live like cats and dogs. Let them see themselves as brothers in arms and respect one another. Let our security agents borrow a leaf from similar agencies in other countries. The duty of internal security should be solely handled by the police. The police are well trained to handle internal security and to deal with civilians. It is never the duty of soldiers.
Soldiers can only be called in when the situation has gone beyond what the police can do. Even at that, the rules of engagement must be made to prevail. Soldiers handling police duties must be adequately briefed on what to do and what not to do. This is why the Federal Government should listen to the calls for state policing. The decentralization of the police will go a long way to address some of the creeping security challenges in the country.
The current centralized policing system has proved so ineffective and quite unsuitable for the country that a new and pragmatic policing system should come on board. Those at the helm of affairs know that this is the right thing to be done now. Delaying it will eventually cause us more harm than good.