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The Nigerian Army, The Police And The Danger of Cross-Purposes
The Nigerian Army, The Police And The Danger of Cross-Purposes

By - Makinde Ebenezer

Posted - 13-08-2019

One can only agree with the great Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe when he identified the best of Nigerian humour to be derived from the intersection of acute dissatisfaction and an equally intense willingness to endure. According to him, “being a Nigerian is abysmally frustrating and unbelievably exciting.” In this context, Achebe was making a case for the dilemma of living in a largely unconvincing country like Nigeria, and the amusements that characterize such experience as you go about your day-to-day activities in the country. The past week in Nigeria was not only eventful, but also comical. We contended with ‘#RevolutionNow’ protest which led to the arrest of its lead convener, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and abuses of many members of the #RevolutionNow protest who had come out to expressed their dissatisfaction with the Nigerian government. Many other issues in the polity including, the Court`s injunction granting the detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibraheem Zakzaky, and his wife, the opportunity to travel out of the country to attend to their failing health and the brawl between two Nigeria`s foremost security apparatuses were particularly trending.

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Particularly, we were informed of the fracas between the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police which led to the death of Nigerian citizens. Officials of the Nigerian Police around Ibi in Taraba state arrested one Alhaji Hamisu, a suspected kidnapper, rumoured to have perpetrated several high-profile kidnappings in the state, as a result, the policemen were attacked by members of the Nigerian Army killing. As a result of the confrontation between the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Police, three policemen and a civilian were killed. According to the spokesperson of the Nigerian police, Frank Mba, “the operatives were taking the arrested suspect to the Command Headquarters in Jalingo, when they were shot severally by the soldiers despite sufficient proof that they are Police personnel on duty.”
Though the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is well-documented, the scenario described above introduced another dimension to the security crisis in the country. At the basic level, it confirms a theory of disjointed security apparatuses in the country and the absence of quality operational communication between two Nigeria`s foremost security institutions. Except of course one of the involved security institutions has criminal intentions. Indeed, there are many reasons to believe that either the Army or the police are not saying the whole truth.

The Nigerian Police and their Many Questions

Following the incidence, the Nigerian Army admitted that its men did kill three personnel of the Nigerian Police and a civilian, but said they were killed as suspected kidnappers. It was reported that the Police officers failed to stop at army checkpoints and even engaged the soldiers in a gun battle which led to their death. Reacting to the press release by the Nigerian Police on the incidence, the Spokesperson of the Army argued that “The suspected kidnappers numbering about ten (10) and driving in a white bus with Reg No LAGOS MUS 564 EU refused to stop when they were halted by the troops at three consecutive check points… the fragrant refusal of the suspected kidnappers to stop at the checkpoints prompted a hot pursuit of the fleeing suspects by the troops… it was in the process that the suspected kidnappers who were obviously armed opened fire at the troops sporadically thus prompting them to return fire.”

The Nigerian Police did come out to strongly disagree with the arguments of the Nigerian Army on the incidence and asked them to provide answers to some pertinent questions pertaining to the occurrence. For example, The Nigerian Army were asked to provide the whereabouts of the suspected kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume ‘rescued’ by the soldiers. They were also asked to provide explanations as to why the police operatives were shot at close range even after they had identified themselves as Police officers on legitimate duty. Also, if Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume is a victim of kidnap as claimed and properly rescued by the soldiers, why was he not taken to the army base for documentation purposes and debriefing in line with the Standard Operating Procedures in the Nigerian Army?

Behind these questions and the demands for answers by the Nigerian Police is the feeling or if you like, fear that the Nigerian Army`s Authorities are trying to shield their personnel from their criminal act. Indeed, there is a reason to believe that the Army personnel that killed the three Police Officers and a civilian were criminally minded and that the Army headquarters is only trying to absolve them of wrongdoings by citing mistaken identity. Nonetheless, it will be more revealing if the Nigerian Army can openly respond to those issues raised by the Police as they did during their last press statement on the incidence.

The Police Exaggerated Nigerians` Fondness of its Institution

The Nigerian Police Force really thought that Nigerian public like them that much as they went on Twitter to do a hashtag calling for responses from the Nigerian Army on relevant issues relating to the incidence. Indeed, the Police have neither been useful or helpful in promoting its image before the general public. In recent times, the Nigerian Police have been accused of murder and unnecessary brutalization of Nigerian citizens.

The brutalization of “RevolutionNow” protesters by members of the Nigerian Police provided fresh evidence for the general public to ridicule the Police after creating the hashtag following the incidence. Though the hashtag, “ProvideAnswersNigerianArmy” had been created by the Police to generate public sympathy and provide the general public with information about the incidence, however, the move, rather than generating sympathy from the public was met with derision, disrespect and disdain by Twitter users. Those who reacted to the hashtag provided the Karma argument. For them, Karma is at work as the institution of the Police is popular for abuse of human rights, brutalization and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians.

Nigerians have more or less lost hope and confidence in the operations of the Nigerian Police especially in the light of the unethical, and sometimes illegal conducts of its operatives in their interactions with the Nigerian public. There are many reported cases of Police brutality that have led to the death of many Nigerians. Indeed, while we were still on the brawl between the Army and the Nigerian Police, it was reported that an unidentified Police officer had killed a driver over ₦1000 bribe on Kaduna-Abuja expressway on Friday, 9th of August, 2019 forcing Tanker Drivers` Union to close the road in demand for justice.

An Uninterested Presidency

On many occasions, President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to react to relevant issues of governance in the country as though he was uninterested in governance. There is a palpable fear that President Muhammadu Buhari is not particularly abreast of what is going on in the country. More so, the current brawl between the Nigerian Army and the Police has been identified as an evidence of the fact that Mr. Muhammadu Buhari has lost control of the country. Indeed, the silence of the president provides us with no choice but to conclude that the presidency has no clue on happenings in the country and that if the presidency is aware of those issues, they are clueless as to the proper course of actions to take to solve the problems.

Because of President Muhammadu Buhari`s continuous silence on relevant political issues, there is a feeling that Nigeria is on a brink of collapse and that there is no government in the country. Indeed, the current crisis between the Police and the Nigerian Army if not properly handled by the Nigerian political leaders can lead to further security crisis in the country. Since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the security situation in the country has not improved significantly, though the current regime was elected under the impression that it would fight corruption, decimate insurgency and all other forms of insecurity in the country and improve the economy.

As a former general, President Muhammadu Buhari unlike President Goodluck Jonathan was expected to succeed on the security front, but the current realities have proved otherwise. From May, 2015 to May, 2019, the period of President Muhammadu Buhari first tenure as the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR), a total of 26, 602 Nigerians have lost their lives to political violence. The North East due to terrorism and insurgency and North Central due to farmer and herdsmen crisis and banditry have suffered the most casualties during this period.

Apart from terrorism and banditry, many deaths have also been reported due to unprofessionalism of the Nigerian security personnel. For example, in recent times, the Nigerian police have engaged in a number of extra-judicial killings, exploitation and brutalization of citizens they are supposed to protect. In the same report of the Nigeria Security Tracker by the Council on Foreign Relations, between 2011 to 2019, about 7, 000 people were killed by state actors, including the military, police and other security personnel of the Nigerian state.

The Danger of Cross-Purposes

Perhaps, the most revealing part of the brawl between the Army and the Nigerian Police is the absence of coordination between Nigeria`s two foremost security forces. The reports by the two security institutions have exposed several shortcomings in the performances of both security apparatuses especially as it relates to unity of purpose. More often than not, the Police, and the Nigerian Army do not often recognize the broader security implications involved in their activities as foremost security institutions in the country. Indeed, if it is true that the soldiers had attacked the Police operatives because of mistaken identity, then we can be sure that such scenario would have been avoided if the Police had informed the Army of its operations.

This is only the latest in several clashes between the Nigerian Army and the Police Force. This type of show of force between the two security establishments in Nigeria has been witnessed on many occasions in the past. In 2003 for example, a fight did break out between the Army and the Police in Lagos state which led to the death of about four personnel of the Nigerian Police. Also, in 2017, a fight broke out between the officials of the Nigerian Police and that of the Nigerian Army in Ekiti State. These brawls have become revealing of the kind of relationships that exist between the Nigerian Army and the Police Force. At the basic level, it can be said that there is a little love lost between the two organizations.

READ ALSO: #RevolutionNow: As Nigeria Desperately Drifts into a Police State

However, to what extent can both institutions deliver on their joint responsibility of securing the Nigerian state when they operating at cross-purposes? It is no longer a secret that the Nigerian state is under severe security threats from all kinds of forces working harmoniously to impede the existential survival of the country. Though not in war, the number of lives that have been lost to political violence, terrorism, and banditry in the past ten years in Nigerians is enough war casualties. According to Nigeria Security Tracker by the Council on Foreign Relations, between 2011 till date, about 61, 514 Nigerians have lost their lives either to terrorism, ethnic violence, farmer and herdsmen crisis or militancy. Though the statistics above is simply indicative, there are indications that more lives have been lost within the period under review. Therefore, a situation when the two major security institutions in the country are not in sync will not augur well for the country.


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