Nigerians must try to overcome the grief and gloom which enveloped the country following the killing of three police officers– Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danzumi and Dahiru Musa – who were lost in a rather unfortunate incident in Ibi, Taraba State, when some soldiers mistook them for kidnappers and killed them in error. The Police officers died with their civilian collaborator, Olajide Owolabi, a 24-year old whose grieving aunt spoke of “a lost hope.” At a time the nation is in agony and so much uncertainty over heightened insecurity, the killing of the officers was a devastating setback.
While the country mourns, it must be consoled and feel proud that the country had these three fine officers who seemed capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the best police officers in the world. Their country barely knew them until the Nigeria Police mentioned the places they had been and what they had done in service revealing, therefore, that their service was nothing short of the extraordinary and a shining example to follow. Nigerians hear, now and then, of the wondrous exploits of Abba Kyari, 39. Abba Kyari, the Detective, is the Commander of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), in the Office of the Inspector-General of Police, three of whose men were lost last week. From all appearances, Nigeria will always remember them as heroes.
At the President’s directive, the Defence Headquarters has constituted a seven-man investigative panel led by Rear Admiral Ibikunle Olaiya to dig into this issue. Members are officers of all the services, plus a member each from the Defence Intelligence Agency and the Department of State Services. We think that a more credible panel would have been one headed by a judge of the high court, with officers from the Army and the Police and a representative of the Nigerian Bar Association, a member of the civil society organisation, Women in Nigeria, and a seventh member from the labour movement preferably a woman. We cannot but observe the difficulty to civilianise the country’s armed services, which we must attribute to our legacy from a lengthy military rule. It is largely the cause of the hyper-aggressive behaviour we have come to associate with our forces, as if the country is still in a military rule.
We understand the Army and the Police have each set up its own in-house investigation. That is to be expected. Regardless of the deadline for the presidential panel, we believe that if it works conscientiously, three weeks should be adequate to tie up the probe and reach conclusions. We hope that when the report is handed to the President that the government’s decision must also include the publication of its full report.
Inter-agency rivalry had been mentioned in many discussions as part of the problem. The Police and the Army are not in competition, each has its own role clearly defined. And in the particular case of the three policemen, it is one of those cruel ironies of fate that Mark Ediale who went down in a barrage of gun fire received a commendation letter from the Chief of Army Staff in 2016, praising him and the Police Force for “this unprecedented feat” in helping the Army solve the riddle of the kidnap and murder of Col. Samaila Inusa. The Army had believed that the Shi’ites were the culprits, until Mark Ediale and his team arrested four members of the gang that had kidnapped and killed the colonel, complete with their operational arms and ammunitions. The Army saw Inspector Ediale’s performance as “a clear manifestation of the excellent co-operation existing between the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police which has flourished over time in joint operations to secure the lives and properties of Nigerians.” Yet testimonies showed that this inspector so well praised by the Army for his work could have been saved but was allowed to die of the bullet wounds on him because the soldiers did not care to save his life even after they knew he was a police officer.
Esprit-de-corps must be re-invented to be the guiding rule for all arms of the services because in the end, they all work towards a single objective of keeping Nigerians safe, secured and in peace. Unwholesome rivalry creates the kind of chaos and ill-will Nigerians feared could have degenerated into something more sinister last week, which could lead to mutual suspicion, the recipe for insecurity as both sides watch their backs in every encounter.