Nigeria Police Officers' Killing by Soldiers and The Issues Nobody is Talking About
The video that surfaced online showing how some Nigerian Soldiers attached to the 93 battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum killed three officers of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Nigeria Police and a civilian sent waves of horror across the country. The escape of the Kidnap Kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, the one policemen had gone to arrest, made many people suspect something fishy happened on Tuesday, the 6th of August.
According to Frank Mba, the P.R.O of the police, the officers were shot by the soldiers after they had properly identified themselves as policemen on a legitimate duty. The Army claimed that the policemen did not stop when ordered to stop and that the soldiers at Ibi checkpoint in Taraba State mistook them for kidnappers and shot at them. From the time the news broke to the time the Nigeria Police used hashtags to cry for help and demand answers and the denial by the Nigerian Army, many issues have risen. Everyone has called for justice for the slained officers. Justice for most people would be to see the soldiers who shot the policemen being court-martialed and dismissed. Going forward, Nigerian people should demand that dismissing the lunatic soldiers is not enough. Nigerians should demand that the people the government armed to protect them have sound mind, impeccable integrity and are well cared for.
One major issue this massacre raised is the training and the mental health of our security operatives. When a security operative is faced with a security situation, such an operative is expected to put his or her training into use immediately. Assuming the soldiers really thought the persons in the bus were kidnappers, should they not know that shooting at a suspected kidnappers' vehicle without proper search could result in a disaster? If the kidnappers were with a victim, shooting at them could endanger the life of an innocent person.
I have read the claims and counter claims by both the police and the military, no where did I find that the intelligence officers engaged the soldiers in a shoot out. Another question that begs is, did the Nigerian Army train the soldiers to shoot at a suspect's vehicle (especially one who did not do anything to endanger their lives) just because the driver didn't stop when ordered to stop? What happened to the safest option of pursuing a suspect? Claims by the Nigerian Army that the soldiers mistook the policemen for kidnappers is not tenable. The Army only succeeded in making the training it gave its men ridiculous, nonsensical and questionable.
Another pertinent issue is the mental health of the soldiers who shot the police officers along Ibi - Jalingo road. It is only soldiers who are either corrupt or mentally not okay that would shoot and kill police officers and a civilian and did nothing while mobs assaulted one of the police officers who appeared to be injured and in great pains. Not only is their professionalism and integrity doubtable, the mental health of these soldiers became questionable when they allowed the mob to assault a dying policeman and dragged the bodies of human beings on the tarred road even when they (soldiers) knew they had shot police officers. Even if they were suspected kidnappers, the soldiers should have ensured that the mob was not allowed to attack the one who was still alive. A suspected criminal is presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law.
If there is any truth to the report that the Kidnap Kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, had most security operatives in the state on his payroll, then it means that we have security officers who are more loyal to criminals because of money than to the country. While there is no excuse whatsoever for an employee of the state to betray the country, there is no reason for a wealthy country like Nigeria to give its security operatives take-home-pay that is not enough to take-them-home. Perhaps, the existence of fifth columnists in the security system of Nigeria is the reason why insecurity seems to be on top of the government instead of the government being on top of it.
A matter that shows the habitual disgusting manner in which the police treats the families of its fallen heroes was the claim by the wife of one of the slained police officers, Sgt. Dahiru Musa, as reported by Sunday Punch Interview on Saturday, that she found out on television that her husband had been killed and that the Nigerian Police had not informed her officially. That means that while the police was busy using hashtags to demand answers from the army and releasing the names of the slained officers, their families had been neglected. No one at the force headquarters deemed it fit to consider the psychological impact of not informing the family members of the slained heroes first before releasing their names to the media. The manner they died was disturbing, not officially informing the wife of the late Sergeant of the death of her husband four days after is traumatising.
The Nigeria Police should not be operated like a small business. In countries where top police officers frequently go for trainings, the names of security operatives killed on duty will not be released until their families or next of kin have been informed officially. As part of the notification process, the home of the family of the slained officer would be visited by a high ranking official from the organisation the slained officer worked for. The notifying officers would not leave until they were certain that the situation was under control and there was someone to be with the person (s) who had received the bad news. This is one way to ensure the confidence and patriotism of frontline security officers. They will give their best and their lives if they know that the organisation they work for care about them.
A BBC Africa Eye documentary that focused on kidnapping in Nigeria and the men of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), showed the wretched situation a family of an IRT policeman who was killed on duty was in. To see that the family of a fallen hero is living in a poor condition and his children are unable to go to school in a country where politicians mindlessly steal public funds is outrageous and immoral. With the way things are, there is no assurance that the families of Inspector Mark Ediale, Sgt Usman Danzumi, Sgt Dahiru Musa would not suffer the same fate. No one knows what will become of the civilian whom the authorities do not deem fit to state his name. Does the police know his name? Are his family members aware that he met his death along Ibi - Jalingo road?
In conclusion, this massacre shows the faults in the Nigerian security system. Beyond the #ProvideAnswersNigerianArmy, this incident reveal the inadequacies of both the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police. While we make calls for frontline security officers in Nigeria to have good weapons, we should also ensure the security officers still have their minds intact, to avoid a situation where we are giving weapons to insane men to protect us. To avoid situations where there is a disconnect between what frontline security officials do and their training, authorities may have to consider conducting frequent reminder training. With the mountain of insecurity issues all over the country, it is high time all security agencies purged themselves of saboteurs. The fifth columnists within the security agencies should be dismissed as they are making nonsense of the patriotic efforts of the few good security officers. All security agencies in Nigeria need to review the inhumane manner in which they treat their officers. Almost all government security officials in Nigeria deal with meagre salaries and oga-at-the-top hoarding and deducting their allowances, when they die, the country they died for traumatises their families. This is not fair. While we await the result of the Investigative panel, we should also talk about and demand actions on the faults and inadequacies the killing of the IRT three and a civilian triggered.
Adeola Oladipupo is a researcher and an intern at the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.