LAGOS—More startling revelations on how operatives of the Inspector- General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IRT, were attacked by soldiers of the 93 battalion in Taraba State, while taking a suspected kidnap kingpin to Jalingo, have emerged.
This followed a blow-by-blow account by one of the surviving operatives, of how he escaped death by the whiskers.
The operative, an Inspector, who is currently nursing a gunshot wound he sustained in the attack, stated that one of the soldiers suggested that he should also be shot dead in order to truncate any evidence against them.
According to him, a counter order from one of the senior officers and the presence of villagers at the scene saved him from being killed.
Explaining how calamity befell him and his colleagues, the inspector, who was also moved to Abuja for treatment, said: “My escape from death was God’s divine intervention. We had succeeded in arresting the kidnap kingpin. His legs and hands were cuffed and we put him in our vehicle as we drove off.
‘’We passed the first and second check points successfully. Besides, when going, we greeted the soldiers at the check points and even offered one of them doughnut. But when we got to the third check point, we discovered that a military Hilux van was following us. We were not driving fast; we were even waiting for them to overtake us when all of a sudden, they opened fire on our vehicle.
“In the process, the vehicle somersaulted, a bullet hit me in the leg. But I struggled to run into the bush with some of my colleagues. From a distance, I watched how they (soldiers) killed my colleagues in execution style, even when they explained that they were policemen.
“Thereafter, one of them said they should comb the bush for those that ran inside. I crawled in pains, and tried to hide but they caught up with me. One o f them said they should shoot me dead, that if they left me alive, I would speak out.
‘’But a Lieutenant among them said they should take me to the hospital. I commend him because but for his counter order, I would have been killed as well. By then, villagers had come out and started videoing the process. One of them even said it would be unwise to kill me since the villagers were also videoing the scene with their phones. I also saw when the soldiers carried the arrested suspect into their Hilux van and drove off.’
DPO denies speaking with Army
Meanwhile, Vanguard reliably gathered that the Divisional Police Officer of Ibi division, who the Army claimed in their press release told them that the visiting operatives did not register their presence before going for the arrest, has denied speaking with any Army personnel on the matter.
Rather, sources at Ibi division quoted the DPO as saying that a file containing the necessary documents brought by the operatives were at the station.
A source said: “There was an investigation letter to the Commissioner of Police, from where they were referred to the Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, who referred them to the Area Commander under which Ibi division is.
‘’From there, they proceeded to Ibi Division where the most senior officer endorsed the letter. When they came back with the suspect, they visited the division again to inform the senior police officer before leaving for Jalingo.
“Besides, there is only one in-let and out-let in the area. Behind the community is River Benue, so there was no way they could have gone or come out through another route. The road is also not a busy one. So, there is no way they could have driven past there without being noticed.”
Autopsy to be carried on corpses
The five corpses of the three operatives and two civilians reached Abuja by 12 midnight, Saturday. The next phase of investigation on the corpses, it was gathered, would be to carry out autopsy on them.
The two civilians among the dead were agents used by the IRT to study places and people for arrest, to prepare the way for the operatives visit the place.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has issued fresh directives to its personnel on how to handle the aftermath of the killing of three policemen by soldiers in Taraba State.
In a letter dated August 9 and signed on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff by Felix Omoigui, a Brigadier-General, the Army asked its personnel to always be cautious in dealing with police officers.
In the letter, with reference number AHQDAIOPS/G3/240/232, the Army accused the police of making “inciting and inflammatory” comments over the incident.
It warned of a possible escalation of the crisis and directed its personnel to be in mufti when travelling and be circumspect in their conduct.
The letter read: “In the aftermath of the unfortunate incident involving troops of 93 bn, Takum and members of the Intelligence Response Team of the NPF at Ibi LGA of Taraba State on August 6, 2019, inciting and inflammatory comments are being made by the NPF on the regular and social media platforms.
“This is capable of inciting the rank and file of the NP to exhibit aggressive tendencies against NA personnel. Accordingly, all troops on IS (Internal Security) duty as well as personnel travelling in and out of uniform are to be circumspect in their conduct to avoid escalation.
“Consequently, formations and unit commanders are to educate troops to be cautious in their dealings with members of the NP in view of this development. Troops travelling on pass are to endeavor to do so in mufti.”
Also yesterday, the Presidency reacted to the killing of the policemen, dismissing insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari had been indifferent to the incident.
Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said on his twitter account: ‘’I will confirm that a committee was set up during the National Security Council meeting to investigate the killing of three policemen and a civilian by soldiers in Taraba State.
‘’The insinuation of indifference on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari is, therefore, untenable.
‘’Contrary to those mischievous insinuations, President Buhari had ordered the Chief of Defence Staff to set up an investigation committee with representatives from all the security organizations in the country, including the police force.
‘’The President is not indifferent to the unfortunate incident, and would take decisive action as soon as the report of the panel is submitted to him. He is following due process and procedure. Putting the cart before the horse is not President Buhari’s way of doing things.
‘’Nigerians should show patience while the President awaits the report of the panel from the Chief of Defence Staff.’’