Fresh information has emerged on what really went down between operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team and some soldiers along Ibi-Jalingo Road, Taraba State on Wednesday, leading to the shooting and subsequent death of three operatives and a civilian.
According to security agents, the order to attack the policemen, who were on lawful duty to apprehend a suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, within the Ibi general area, was ordered by a Captain of the Nigerian Army, who is a friend of Wadume.
The army Captain, it was learnt, is not just a friend, but also on Wadume’s pay roll.
According to sources, the operatives, while heading to Ibi village to make the arrest, encountered military men at three checkpoints.
They introduced themselves, chatted with them and exchanged pleasantries as sister-forces.
It was soldiers at one of those checkpoints that also pulled the killing triggers on the operatives while they were returning with their suspect.
A source disclosed: “The road to Ibi village is very narrow and only that road leads to the village.
“You have to pass through it to enter or leave the village.
“Ibi is a small village.
“That was why when the operatives encountered the soldiers at the three checkpoints, introduced themselves and what they came for.
“They chatted, joked and exchanged pleasantries.
“The arrest was made within 20 minutes and while they were returning, soldiers at the first and second checkpoints asked them if they were already through.
“The soldiers and operatives know one another, but the phone call from a top military personnel changed everything.”
Our reporter gathered that the operatives were attacked at the third military checkpoint in the village.
It was further learnt that the operatives were taken unaware.
When the soldiers allegedly opened fire on the operatives’ bus, the shocked driver lost control of his wheel and the bus somersaulted.
Operatives, who were fast enough to crawl out of the damaged vehicle fled into the bush.
The soldiers, when they got to the scene, realised those at the scene were still alive.
They shot three operatives and a civilian among them at close range.
“Two of the recovered corpses had bullet holes in their stomach, the other two had bullet holes in their chests.
Ibi is a small community and within a twinkle of an eye, the scene of the accident and attack was swarming with people.
The soldiers labelled the operatives kidnappers, leading to jubilation.
The arrival of the people to the scene actually saved the lives of two operatives, who had earlier crawled to hide.
It was gathered that they would have been shot dead too, but for the crowd.
Rather, they were taken to a part of Army base, where deliberation was made on whether to kill them.
One of the soldiers told his colleagues that killing them would be too risky because most of the villagers caught them alive on their smart phones.
He told them that the videos would give them away.
The soldiers reluctantly took them to hospital.
A security source said: “The three IRT operatives were brutally murdered while on investigation duty in Taraba State by personnel of the Nigerian Army.
“It is believed that these soldiers and their boss are working for Wadume.
“The operatives, who were on a follow up to an ongoing kidnapping investigation, led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Felix Adolije, went to Taraba State with investigation activities letter.
“They were ambushed by the soldiers.
“Preliminary investigation showed that the kidnap kingpin, who is presently on the run, has many security personnel in Ibi, Taraba State on his pay roll.
“Operatives got to Police Headquarters in Jalingo and perfected their papers as professionals.
“They then proceeded to Ibi Town, Taraba State, in their operational Toyota Hummer Bus.
“When the operatives got to Ibi town, they booked their arrival at the police station and proceeded with assistance from a policeman attached to them in the state headquarters, Jalingo to trace and arrest Alhaji Hamisu, who is wanted because he is linked to several kidnappings in Taraba State, including a recent kidnapping, where N100 million was collected as ransom.
“After arresting Wadume, the operatives were heading to police headquarters at Jalingo, when gang members of Wadume, who are close to an Army Captain serving in Ibi town, called the Army Officer and told him that his friend has been kidnapped.
“Without any verification or inquiries, the Army Captain ordered his men along the highway to ambush the policemen.
“Thus, as the team was moving along Ibi-Jalingo Road, they came under hail of bullets from soldiers.
“The soldiers came from behind with another vehicle.
“As a result the operatives’ bus summersaulted.
“Thereafter, two police officers and one civilian agent were shot to death by the soldiers at close range.
“The policemen were shot despite presenting their police identification cards.
“These policemen also wore police jackets.
“All the operatives were alive when their vehicles somersaulted.
“Two operatives, Inspector Mark Idiale and Inspector Abah Mathias, were seriously injured with bullets.
“They are now receiving treatment at General Hospital, Wukari, Taraba State.
“Policemen from Ibi Area Command responded to calls and took the injured and dead officers to the hospital.
“The Wadume, who was rescued and released by the soldiers, is presently on the run.”
It is believed that Wadume and other members of his gang escaped with him to a location outside Ibi town.
One AK47 Rifle and two pistols belonging to the late Police Officers were carted away by the gang members of Wadume who came to the scene with the soldiers, while two of the police AK47 rifles are with the soldiers as admitted by one of their personnel at the scene.
Following the killings of the policemen, the military high command came with a press release, attempting to exonerate their men.
This forced the Nigerian Force to come with a stiff counter press statement, raising posers and demanding answers to several puzzles in the case, one of which was the demand for military to present Wadume.
Force Spokesman and a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Mba, mentioned the names of the murdered policemen as Inspector Mark Edaile from Edo State, Sergeant Usman Danzumi from Taraba State and Sergeant Dahiru Musa from Taraba State.
Mba said: “The gallant, outstanding IRT team attacked by soldiers in Taraba State consists of some of the most disciplined, proficient and hardworking police investigators in the service of the nation. Until their untimely death in the hands of soldiers of 93 Battalion Takum, Taraba State, these officers have participated in several high profile and high risk arrests, rescue missions and investigative operations.”
The FPRO listed some of the operations to include the arrest of Nigeria’s most notorious kidnap kingpin, Evans; arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in Borno State; arrest of Umar Abdulmalik, the overall Boko Haram Commander in the North Central and several of his group members; and arrest of the kidnappers of two American and two Canadian citizens in Kaduna State.
He stressed: “And most recently, the rescue of Magajin Garin Daura in Kano State and arrest of 13 terrorists responsible for the kidnapping of the Magajin Garin Daura in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State on 1st May 2019, among many other outstanding feats.”
This is the first time in many years of the cold war between police and soldiers that the police appeared ready to throw their weight behind their men and demand for the truth and justice.
On October 4, 2014, soldiers and policemen had a confrontation at Area C Police Command, Ojuelegba barracks, where many policemen were killed.
The attack was later described as a massacre.
The soldiers set the station on fire, freed detainees and allowed police armoury to be looted.
Policemen at the station, who survived, either hid in toilets or fled through windows and back ways.
Till date, no soldier was arrested the death of the policemen and burning of the station.
When the military responded, it stated unknown soldiers.
When the police hierarchy finally reacted to the case, it claimed it was still investigating.
Also, some years ago, three policemen, including the Divisional Police Officer of Badagry, were shot dead by soldiers from nearby barracks and as was the norm, it turned out to be activities of unknown soldiers.
Till date, no soldier had been arrested.
The murder of the three operatives and their civilian friend followed by viral videos of the scene of the attack, has generated a buzz in the social media and among members of the Civil Society Organisations.
A human rights activist, Okechukwu Nwanguma, who is the Executive Director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, while speaking on the matter, said: “There are many reasons to doubt the Nigerian Army’s claims of ‘mistaken identity’ as excuse for the murder of the IRT operatives.
“That plea does not explain why they shot at the officers at close range and continued to maltreat the ones battling for life after being shot even after they identified themselves as police officers.
“It does not also explain the immediate release of the arrested kidnap suspect.
“There is something fishy.
“They probably have something to cover which only an independent and impartial inquiry, perhaps, a judicial panel of inquiry will unravel.
“There have been allegations of diversion of security funds, military and security agencies’ collusion/involvement in crime and sabotage of efforts to combat kidnapping and insurgency.
“Nigerians should insist on this matter not being covered up like previous cases.
“There’s the need to unravel the motive, and other circumstance surrounding this tragedy and identify appropriate measures to end interagency rivalry and also identify, isolate and neutralise saboteurs of the fight against insecurity in Nigeria.”