The Nigerian Army has explained the circumstances that led to the unfortunate death of three police officers during a firefight with troops in Taraba State.
The Nigeria Police Force had raised alarm on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 that three of its officers and a civilian were killed during a confrontation with soldiers along Ibi-Jalingo Road in Taraba on Tuesday, August 6.
Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, said the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) had arrested and was transporting a suspected kidnapper Alhaji Hamisu, to the Command Headquarters in Jalingo when the attack happened. The kidnap suspect was also set free by the soldiers after the firefight, and is now on the run.
In response to the Police statement, the Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, said in a statement that the unfortunate incident happened because the officers failed to identify themselves to troops.
He said troops of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army Takum were responding to a distress call to rescue a kidnapped victim when they clashed with the Police team.
He said the team's bus refused to stop when they were flagged down at three different Army checkpoints before they fired on troops who fired back in self-defence.
He said, "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."
Contrary to Colonel Musa's claim, Mba had noted that the soldiers opened fire on the officers despite sufficient proof that they were on legitimate duty.
Sagir said troops did not make this discovery until after the "avoidable outcome" of the shootout. He noted that even the local police station was unaware that the team was conducting a covert operation in the area when the Army made inquiries.
"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," he said.
Colonel Musa said the unfortunate incident could have been avoided through proper coordination and liaison between the two security agencies in their bids to fight insecurity.
To avoid a repeat in the future, Musa announced that the Police and Army have agreed to constitute a Joint Investigation Panel to investigate and report on the true circumstances surrounding the firefight.
The panel will be headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Criminal Investigation Department, Mike Ogbizi.
"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," he concluded.
Colonel Musa failed to address why troops set the kidnap suspect free, but Mba disclosed that he is wanted for his complicity in several high profile kidnap cases including the recent abduction of an oil mogul in Taraba where a ransom of about N100 million was paid.