Men and officers of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) stormed the homes of the late inspector-general of police, Adamu Sulaiman, and the late Air Vice Marshal Sulaiman Natiti in a pre-dawn raid in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. They allegedly whisked away six members of the deceased police chief's family.
During the house-to-house search conducted by the security personnel at Clerk Quarters in the metropolis, some residents claimed that they were brutalised by the troops. The residents told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that they were woken up by the soldiers and police, who either forced their way into their apartments or laid siege outside to arrest early risers.
The late Sulaiman was the IGP under the administration of former president Shehu Shagari and was succeeded by Sunday Adewusi.
The late AVM Natiti headed the panel which probed the rot in the moribund Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) during the regime of the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Mallam Ubale Usman, a member of the late Natiti's family, claimed that six of his siblings were arrested by the task force. "Members of the joint patrol team forcefully broke into three rooms in our family house and arrested six of our members. As at now, we don't know their whereabouts, although there were speculations that they might have been detained at the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) office," Usman said.
A female resident alleged that her child was whisked away by the patrol team even though he did not commit any offence to warrant his arrest.
A young man in the area, Mallam Abdullahi Umar, also known as Secretary, said that he was thoroughly beaten up by the members of the patrol team without any explanation for their action.
Their ordeal came a day after the chief of army staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, declared that the Nigerian Army would no longer harbour uncultured and undisciplined soldiers in its fold.
Addressing graduands of the Basic Counter-Terrorism Course at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora, Niger State, on Friday, Lt. Gen. Ihejirika said, "With the completion of your training, you will be deployed into the field. As you go into the field, you must put into practice all that you have learnt during the training so as to reflect the hard work which your instructors have put into the training. Tackling current security challenges indeed requires competent soldiers in all aspects of internal security duties.
"It is imperative, therefore, that you utilise all the combat-proficiency skills you have acquired during these few weeks of intensive training to exhibit high sense of professionalism in the conduct of your assigned tasks. In doing so, you must adhere strictly to the rules of engagement."
He warned them against any act of indiscipline or unprofessionalism, violating the rules of internal security-keeping and rumour-mongering, otherwise their career would be terminated.
"The Nigerian Army thrives on discipline without which career will be short-lived. The Nigerian Army as a professional force has laid-down procedures that govern all aspects of your life. You must adhere to all the rules and regulations, avoid rumour-mongering and show concern in situations around you," he said.
Narrating his ordeal, Mallam Umar told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY: "I came out this morning (yesterday) for my morning prayers oblivious of what was happening outside. A military person accosted me and followed it with a slap. When I realised that I was heading for serious trouble, I quickly freed myself from the grip of the military officer and dashed into a house, but the officer followed suit. When he caught up with me, he gave me the beating of my life with the assistance of some of his colleagues. I was however lucky as a Good Samaritan intervened and saved me from being taken away."
Another resident of the area who did not want his name mentioned for security reasons said that, after the operation was over, he realised that his N10,000 was gone.
The security personnel however treated another resident, Mallam Sani Awwal, politely. He told our correspondents that he was actually treated with courtesy by the officers. "At about 4am, I heard knocks on my door. When I woke up, I thought that it was my sister who sweeps the compound and the adjoining mosque that was at door.
But when I opened the door, I was confronted by military officers who told me that they were on a house-to-house search. So, I let them in and they conducted themselves professionally. When they finished and were satisfied, the officers thanked me for cooperating with them and left," Awwal said.
A senior official of the state's command of the Nigeria Police confirmed the operation to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY. He said following the recent happenings in the state, the team deemed it fit to conduct a house-to-house search to nip the current insecurity in the bud. He also confirmed the arrest made by the patrol team, adding that anyone found innocent would be released.
Ihejirika also hinted that a special force designed to handle internal and external emergency security cases in the country would soon be formed by the Nigerian Army. The special force will operate from the Army Headquarters and draw its personnel from the anti-terrorism squad and other units of the army.
To ensure the smooth take-off of the force, the army hierarchy has scaled up the training of troops to be deployed to the task force at the Nigerian Army Training Centre, Kontagora.
When it starts operations, the squad, according to Gen. Ihejirika, would confront internal and external security emergency cases which might include terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities perpetrated in the form of armed robbery, illegal refining of petroleum products and pipeline vandalism.
At the event, 2,094 young soldiers comprising 1,869 men and 225 women graduated. This has brought the total number of graduates from the centre to 4,000 soldiers and 400 officers.
He said: "The special force is important to both the Army Headquarters and the nation in the sense that if there is a situation whereby there is an emergency, we have a force you call upon and deploy immediately whether it is internal or external."
Gen. Ihejirika disclosed that 600 soldiers from the counter-terrorism squad and some senior officers would form the plank of the new the task force, adding that "they are not likely to be committed to the peacekeeping operations and internal security crises but to training and attending to emergency cases".
Earlier, the commander of the institution, Maj-Gen. Stephen Audu, commended Ihejirika for establishing the outfit and pledged to ensure that the outfit attains its status as "centre of excellence and the pride of the Nigerian Army."
Ihejirika had earlier visited the Emir of Kontagora, the Sarki Sudan, Alhaji Dr. Sheidu Nanaska, whom he praised for the mutual relationship between his people and the military.