Commander of IGP Intelligence Response Team, DCP Abba Yyari with arrested kidnap kingpin, Hamish Wadume
As Army is yet to release soldiers indicted in Police IRT men’s killing
Indicted Captain’s promotion to rank of Major cancelled
ABUJA—The reluctance of the Nigerian Army to release the Army captain and soldiers indicted in the killing of three operatives of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, IGP-IRT, in Taraba State, has stalled prosecution of the case.
As a result, the Police High Command is considering taking the case to the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, according to competent sources.
The IRT operatives were killed while moving millionaire Taraba kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume, from Ibbi to the Taraba State capital, Jalingo.
Efforts to reach the Army for comments, last night, proved abortive, as calls pulled through the telephone of the spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa rang out without response.
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Vanguard investigations revealed that the Nigerian Police investigating team, having concluded its investigations and found the Army captain and some soldiers of 93 battalion as well as some police personnel, including the Divisional Crime Officer of Ibbi Police Station, culpable, submitted its report to the Police High Command.
Consequently, the Force Headquarters wrote to Army Headquarters, requesting that the Army Captain, Tijanni Balarabe, and the indicted soldiers be released to the Police to enable the prosecutors file charges against them and other police officers involved in the killing of the IRT operatives.
But months after the request was made, the Army authorities have refused to either respond to the Police request or make any effort to release the Army personnel involved.
‘Indicted Army captain’s promotion halted’
However, sources disclosed to Vanguard that the Army captain who was relocated after the incident for internal investigation procedures may have started paying the price for his involvement in the Taraba killings as his promotion to the rank of Major had been cancelled.
It was gathered that his name was on the list of captains to be promoted to the rank of major and sent to the promotion board.
While screening the officers for eligibility, the promotion board was said to have noticed Captain Balarabe’s name on the list and skipped his name as there were unanswered questions about his conduct in the Wadume controversy.
It was further gathered that the Police authorities are holding back on the next line of action so as not to give the impression that the Taraba incident was being personalized or that it was a Police affair rather than national issue.
Already, President Muhammad Buhari who ordered the setting up of a panel of inquiry to investigate the matter, had ordered that persons found complicit in the saga be made to face the law.
This was after he was presented with the Defence Headquarters committee’s report on the investigation.
A source disclosed that if the Army authorities continue to disregard Police request to send the officer and soldiers involved for charges and prosecution in competent courts, the Police might be forced to communicate directly to the Commander-in-Chief that his directive was being flouted.
“The Police are trying everything to prevent a situation where accusations of inter-service rivalry will come up again. Towards ensuring synergy among the two security agencies, we even copied the Army the report of the investigations to show transparency but this is not being reciprocated,” a source said.
It would be recalled that in heat of the killing of the Police operatives and the tension that resulted from the media exchanges between the Nigerian Army and the Police, the Army ordered officers and men to wear plain clothes while travelling across Nigeria.
An Army headquarters signal had noted that inciting and inflammatory comments were being made over the alleged killing of three policemen and a civilian in Taraba after they had effected the arrest of Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, who was on the run.
The circular with reference number: AHQDAIOPS/G3/240/232, which was copied to Army formations nationwide and signed by Brig. Gen. F. Omoigui, on behalf of the COAS, was entitled: “Need for troops to be circumspect in dealing with members of the Nigeria Police.”
Soldiers on internal security operations across the country were warned to be circumspect and were alerted of the likelihood of aggression towards troops by Police personnel, even as the circular said Police statements and reactions had the potential of forcing the rank and file of its personnel to “exhibit aggressive tendencies against NA (Nigerian Army) personnel.”.
It will be recalled that on August 6 2019, soldiers of the 93 Battalion allegedly opened fire on and killed three IRT operatives, namely Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi, and Sergeant Dahiru Musa.
The Army in a statement soon after, claimed the officers were shot after being mistaken for “suspected kidnappers”.
This prompted the Force headquarters to issue its own statement which read thus: “The Force also considers it insensitive, disrespectful and unpatriotic for the Army to describe Policemen on lawful national assignment as ‘suspected kidnappers’ long after it had become crystal clear to the Army that these are law enforcement officers who unfortunately were gruesomely murdered in the line of duty by Nigerian soldiers attached to 93 Battalion, Takum.
“In the final analysis, we leave the Nigerian Army authorities to provide Nigerians with answers to the following questions emanating from their press release: Where is the notorious kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, ‘rescued’ by the soldiers?
“How and why was Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume released by the soldiers? How could a kidnap suspect properly restrained with handcuffs by the Police escape from his military rescuers?
“If Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume is a “victim of kidnap” as claimed, and properly rescued by soldiers, why was he not taken to the Army base for documentation purposes and debriefing in line with standard operating procedure.?”
‘Some of the these pertinent questions were later answered by Wadume when he was re-arrested by Police Special Forces, led by DCP Abba Kyari, Commander of IGP IRT on August 19, 2019, in Kano.
In a video clip after his arrest, Wadume, who spoke in Hausa, revealed that soldiers of the 93 battalion, Takum, Taraba State, aided his escape from the IRT custody by rescuing him, cutting his handcuffs and releasing him to go home.
Speaking in Hausa, Wadume had said: “My name is Hamisu Bala Wadume. Police came to arrest me, When they arrested me, Army chased after them and opened fire. From there, they (soldiers) took me to their headquarters, and cut off my handcuffs.”
The Police in announcing his re-arrest, said it followed a massive manhunt launched by Police special forces and IRT members,”
Force Headquarters spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, had said in a statement: “The operatives of the Nigeria Police have re-arrested the notorious kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume.
“He was re-arrested in the late hours of Monday, August 19, at his hideout at Layin Mai Allo Hotoro area of Kano State.
“It would be recalled that the Police had been on the massive manhunt for the suspect, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, since August 6, following the unfortunate incident in Ibi, Taraba State, which resulted in the brutal murder of three Police officers and two civilians, and injury to five others.
“The suspect, who was appropriately restrained at the time of the incident, was subsequently released by his “rescuers” after they had destroyed the restraining handcuffs.”
The Police then noted that Wadume’s arrest, ‘will, no doubt, help in bringing answers to the numerous but hitherto unanswered questions touching on the incident and the larger criminal enterprise of the suspect.”
Army orders own probe
Following Wadume’s confessions, the Nigerian Army ordered its own investigation into the incident.
At the second and third quarter Chief of Army conference in Abuja in September 2019, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, said investigation into the rescue of Wadume had been completed.
Though he did not give details, he, however, promised that soldiers found to have played any role in the killing of the three policemen in Taraba and rescuing of Hamisu Bala Wadume, a suspected kidnapper, would be punished.