Soldiers and policemen fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in Yobe State yesterday turned their guns against each other in Damaturu, the capital resulting in fatalities.
Trouble began Tuesday when a man was said to have interfered with the convoy of a police mobile squadron as a result of which he was manhandled.
The person turned out to be an army officer. Sources told Daily Trust yesterday that soldiers decided to exert revenge.
They went and took away the mobile police commandant and detained him.
The following day policemen went to a military formation at the Presidential Lodge to free their commandant.
The stalemate, which began in the evening of Tuesday, lasted till around 11am yesterday following the intervention of senior officers of the two security outfits and the Yobe State government.
The Network of Yobe Civil Society Organization, (NYCSO) also condemned clashed saying it had instilled fears in the mind of residents in Damaturu, Yobe state capital.
The secretary of the Network, Dauda Muhammed Gombe, stated this in an interview with Daily Trust, Wednesday, in Damaturu.
He noted that the fracas had “Renewed fears in the minds of the resident that have been enjoying relative peace for almost two years.
“The normalcy has been shattered for hours today, government establishments, financial institutions and day-to-day businesses were all shut because of the unfortunate attitudes of the security operatives.
“We are appealing to the leadership of both forces to investigate the matter and take disciplinary measures on the culprits, so as to ensure that issues like this will be averted in future,” he said
He advised the security operatives to do everything possible and retained the confidence of people in the town, while calling on people in the state to continue to support the security operatives.
What happened next was not clear, but what residents heard was rapid gunfire.
Two policemen and a soldier were said to have been killed in the shooting but there was no confirmation of this from both sides. Many others were also wounded and taken to hospital.
Both the Army and the police in a joint four-paragraph statement confirmed the clash describing the incident as unfortunate.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Kayode Ogunsoya, said: “The attention of this Headquarters has been drawn to an unfortunate incident that happened between some unguided soldiers and policemen in Damaturu this morning.
“A joint committee between the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police has been set up to investigate the incident.
“This Headquarters wishes to assure the members of the public that the situation has been brought under control and normalcy has been restored.”
A source at Damaturu Specialist hospital revealed that one of the policemen was brought dead, while the other two policemen and the soldier died on arrival due to excessive bleeding.
Our correspondent, who visited the hospital, confirmed seeing the wounded commandant in charge of 41, Dauda Buba Fika, at VIP8, Amenity ward of the hospital.
“He was just brought out of the operation, two bullets were removed from his body, one from the ball joint and the other from pelvic,” one of the hospital staff revealed.
A joint committee of Nigerian Army and Nigeria police force has been set up to investigate the violent clash.
It was gathered that a meeting was held at the instance of the state deputy governor Abubakar D. Aliyu, who stood in for Governor Ibrahim Gaidam.
During the meeting attended by heads of the two security agencies, the deputy governor, lamented the incident and urged them to work together so as not to jeopardize the peace that returned to the state after years of fear.
A source close to the meeting said, “He also told them that they should remain partners in progress and not rivals and that the peace being enjoyed was achieved as a result of serious collaboration.”
Meanwhile, residents of Damaturu have condemned the incident in strong terms.
Some residents interviewed said they were rattled by the sound of gun shots that rent the air in the early hours of yesterday.
They described the incident as “an ugly development” that reminded them of the ugly days of Boko Haram terrorists act.
They called on the military and the police hierarchy in Abuja to investigate this “terribly embarrassing incident” that brought the “two security agencies to disrepute.”
The major roundabout in Damaturu, which also served as an intersection that leads to Maiduguri, Gujba and Gashua was blocked by soldiers for hours, a development that grounded movement of vehicles to and out of the Yobe capital.
Halima Ali, a civil servant in Sabon Fegi, said she was rattled by the gun fires from both the mobile policemen and soldiers “over a simple matter that ought to have been sorted out amicably.”
“In all honesty, I thought it was the Boko Haram militants that launched an attack; everybody was scared. When the shooting began I dashed into a nearby house for safety and could not even go out at all,” she said.
Amin Aliyu, another resident of Sani Daura Estate, described the incident as “most unfortunate.”
He said: “Though the sound of the gun shots was only heard in some places, what transpired was impunity of the highest order at a time both the police and the army have gone far in redeeming their image.
“We all forgot when last we heard gunshot in Damaturu but here we’re today, completely traumatized,” he said.
Daily Trust gathered that the commander of the mobile police was taken by soldiers to a military formation at Kukareta in the outskirt of Damaturu.
However, members of his squadron felt slighted and thereafter stormed the army formation at the Presidential Lodge thinking he was being detained there. – Daily Trust.