ON Tuesday, the Board Of Inquiry, BOI, set up to investigate the killing of three police officers and two civilians in Taraba State in August revealed that the police and army were culpable in the five lives lost in the incident which was blamed on a breakdown in communication.
In a statement, the Acting Director, Defence Information of the Defence Headquarters, Onyema Nwachukwu, a colonel, said that the panel’s report associated the conflict to a breakdown in communication between the police team that went on an operation in Taraba State and the soldiers at the checkpoint.
“After a thorough and painstaking investigation into the incident, the BOI submitted its report to the convening authority observing that, there were infractions and poor communication between personnel of the Nigeria Police Force and troops of the Nigerian Army.
“It was also observed that there was non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure by both parties involved in the incident. It further made some recommendations to the NA and NPF to forestall future reoccurrence and bring anyone culpable to book in accordance with extant laws,” he said.
Three officers from the police intelligence response unit were killed on August 6 while returning from an operation to arrest a suspected kidnap kingpin in Taraba. The team were attacked by a company of soldiers while they were transporting the suspect, Wadume Bala, in a police van to Jalingo, the state capital.
The suspect was released by the soldiers but was later arrested in Kano a few weeks later and has remained in police custody.
Two civilians suspected to be working with the police were also killed in the attack, which generated nationwide outcry.
The attack led to rancour between the police and the military ranks, with the police insisting that the attack was plotted by the soldiers to free the suspect.
Investigations by the Police showed that the suspect had a series of telephone conversations with senior police officers in Ibi, the community where Bala was arrested.
The panel recommended further investigations on Captain Tijani Balarabe, Sergeant Ibrahim Mohammed, Corporal Bartholomew Obanye, DPO Ibi Police Division, Assistant Superintendent of Police Aondoona Iorbee, and Inspector Aliyu Dadje for complacency and necessary disciplinary measures.
It also urged speedy investigations on Hamisu Bala for gunrunning and possible kidnapping, in order to prosecute the suspect.
The panel was led by Ibikunle Olaiya, a rear admiral, with one representative each from the Defence Headquarters, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Defence Intelligence Agency, Nigeria Police and the State Security Service.
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.