The Nigerian Army on Wednesday offered explanation for the killing of three policemen on covert duties in Taraba State by its personnel.
The explanation was offered in a statement by the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Deputy Commissioner of Police Frank Mba, had earlier in the day said three operatives in the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team, headed by DCP Abba Kyari, were killed by the soldiers in Taraba State despite identifying themselves as being on covert operation to arrest one Alhaji Hamisu, a suspected kidnapper.
Hamisu was said to have been involved in several crimes, collecting N100 million as ransom during one of such operations.
However, Mba said as Hamisu was being driven to the Police Command Headquarters in Jalingo, they were engaged in fierce shooting by soldiers, resulting in the death of three policemen, a civilian and the escape of the suspect.
But Musa countered Mba, saying the IRT operatives refused to stop at three military checkpoints and then engaged the soldiers in a shootout.
He said some villagers had raised the alarm that the operatives were in an unmarked bus and refused to stop at the checkpoints, which resulted in the soldiers giving them a hot chase.
The statement by Musa reads in full:
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 distress 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 (10) 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 check points. 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 fire fight, four (4) suspects were shot and died on the spot while four (4) 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.
However, following inquiries from a Police Station officer who was asked by the commander of the Army troops whether he was aware of any Nigerian 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 Nigerian 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 Nigerian Police is the lead Agency.
In order 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. 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.