FOLLOWING the police’s accusation that soldiers allegedly opened fire on police personnel on legitimate duty which led to the death of three police officers, the Nigerian Army on Thursday countered the claim, stating that the policemen were mistaken for kidnappers.
On Wednesday, police operatives of the Intelligence Response Team, IRT, were allegedly attacked by soldiers of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum, along Ibi-Jalingo road in Taraba State, leaving four people dead with others sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
Among the dead includes, a police inspector, two sergeants, and a civilian, while the kidnap suspect, in police custody, was freed in the process.
Sagir Musa, Army spokesperson countering the accusation in a statement said the police officers had refused to stop at checkpoints which raised red flags prompting the soldiers to respond to the situation.
“The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten were 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,” he said.
He also stated that the commander of the troops made enquiries at the police station in the area whether they were aware of any police team being dispatched to operate, but the divisional police officer claimed he was not informed.
He submitted that “this lent credence to the distressed call from members of the community that the policemen, on a covert mission, were rather suspected kidnappers.”
“In the resultant firefight, four suspects were shot and died on the spot while four others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and 2 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,” he affirmed.
Sagir said the incident was unfortunate and could have been avoided through appropriate intelligence as the police are partners in the fight against crimes such as kidnapping amongst other internal security threats facing the country.
“To avert future occurrences of this nature, the Army Headquarters and the Force Headquarters of the Nigerian 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,” he said.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.