They died while trying to keep the rest of us safe. Three valiant policemen -- Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi, and Sergeant Dahiru Musa -- met their gruesome end when soldiers of 93 Battalion Nigerian Army, Takum, killed them while transporting a notorious suspect along the Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State.
It would have been tolerable but still tragic if the circumstances gave the impression of friendly fire. However, the video of the encounter suggests otherwise. The policemen did identify themselves as officers of the elite Intelligence Response Team (IRT) from the office of the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, yet they were shot. By some inexplicable magic, the millionaire suspect in the custody of the policemen vaporised into thin air even though he was in handcuffs and leg chains.
The initial press release issued by the army on the incident was, in my opinion, a disservice to Public Relations. The army claimed that the soldiers mistook the policemen for kidnappers: "The suspected kidnappers numbering 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 checkpoints. 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 suspects were shot and died on the spot while four others sustained various degrees of gunshot wounds and two others reportedly missing. It was only after this avoidable outcome that one of the wounded suspects disclosed the fact that they were indeed Policemen dispatched from Nigerian Police, Force Headquarters, Abuja for a covert assignment."
That position doesn't sound credible when juxtaposed with available facts and the video evidence available at the click of a mouse. Was the incident a fire-fight or an execution? The police insist that the soldiers opened fire on the officers despite sufficient proof that they were on legitimate duty.
The Force described the deceased officers as some of the best and most highly trained IRT operatives in the country who were simply doing their job by 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.
The Force disclosed that the three officers were part of the team responsible for the high profile arrest of notorious kidnap overlord, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, in 2017. The three men also contributed to last month's rescue of Musa Umar Uba, an in-law of President Buhari, who spent two months in the kidnappers' den. They also participated in the arrest of a Boko Haram commander, Umar, as well as 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno.
In the video under reference, one of the policemen who survived the accident resulting from the soldiers' shooting, can be heard begging, "Please don't kill me... " One of the soldiers can be heard saying, "They showed us ID cards that they were from the IG (Inspector General of Police)". Then another said, "Till all of you die!" An unidentified voice said: "Let's set them ablaze with the vehicle," but somebody off camera, perhaps a more senior officer, replied with an emphatic, "No!"
O Unmade Maker from whom we came and to whom we shall return, what commandment enjoins dog to have dog for dinner?
Before we become engrossed in our usual pastime of chasing after the wind, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that a man described by the police as one of the most ruthless and richest kidnappers ever known in Nigeria is at large. The way his escape happened reminds one of two characters -- Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug baron of unsung memory, and Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the Mexican drug lord and former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Wealthy criminals can always buy their way out of confinement. Alhaji Hamisu may have done just that.
The Nigerian Army must produce Alhaji Hamisu. Even if we buy the fib that the soldiers thought they were dealing with kidnappers, where is the 'hostage' they rescued? The police have also asked questions of their own: How could a kidnap suspect properly restrained with handcuffs by the Police escape from the hands of 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 the Standard Operating Procedure in the Nigerian Army? Why were the police operatives shot at close range even after they had identified themselves as police officers on legitimate duty as evident in the video now in circulation?
Truth be told, the army is not smelling of roses on this one. This is NOT a case of inter-agency rivalry as postulated by some self-styled security 'experts'. Rivalry over what? A five star criminal is on the loose, courtesy of Nigerian soldiers. Whatever it takes, the same army that released him should produce him to face the law.
As I join my voice to those of millions of Nigerians condoling the families of the deceased, I wonder how those families will come to terms with the paradox that their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, were executed like condemned robbers while trying to keep the nation safe. And somebody actually had the unmitigated gall to call them kidnappers!