Da­maturu res­i­dents count losses af­ter army, po­lice clash

Sunday Trust - - NEWS FEATURE -

Last Wed­nes­day’s clash be­tween sol­diers and po­lice­men who are fight­ing the Boko Haram in­sur­gency in Da­maturu, the Yobe State cap­i­tal, has shat­tered the rel­a­tive peace en­joyed in the state for two years. Our cor­re­spon­dent ob­served that res­i­dents now live in fear.

As res­i­dents ob­served their early morn­ing prayers and pre­pared for their nor­mal busi­nesses, lit­tle did they know that hell would be let loose and the town would be­come a war zone of sorts, few min­utes past 6am.

Ex­actly 6:17am, the sound of gun­shots be­tween sol­diers and the po­lice took over the at­mos­phere, forc­ing res­i­dents to go into hid­ing as they re­called the ugly days of deadly Boko Haram at­tacks.

Daily Trust on Sun­day no­ticed that even be­fore the in­ci­dent on Wed­nes­day, ten­sion was build­ing up be­tween the two se­cu­rity agen­cies, but on many oc­ca­sions, their se­nior of­fi­cers in­ter­vened and nipped the sit­u­a­tion in the bud.

In Au­gust 2016, the two se­cu­rity agen­cies en­gaged each other in a gun bat­tle in Gaidam town. That was shortly af­ter the one in Tar­muwa, which claimed the life of an in­spec­tor while some were wounded.

In May 20, 2017, a mo­bile po­lice­man, Aju­jumbu Kennedy of Mopol 41, was also al­legedly shot dead at the Kan­da­har beer par­lour. His col­leagues ac­cused sol­diers of car­ry­ing out the act. It was al­leged that two ri­vals - a po­lice­man and a sol­dier - got into a fight over a pros­ti­tute iden­ti­fied as Fadila.

The in­ci­dent on Wed­nes­day was said to have started on Tues­day when a man al­legedly in­ter­fered with the con­voy of a po­lice mo­bile squadron. The man, who was man­han­dled, turned out to be an army of­fi­cer.

Sources told Daily Trust on Sun­day yes­ter­day that sol­diers, who de­cided to re­venge, took away the mo­bile po­lice com­man­dant and de­tained him.

An­gered by the ar­rest, the mo­bile po­lice­men went to a mil­i­tary for­ma­tion at the Pres­i­den­tial Lodge to free their com­man­dant.

The cri­sis, which be­gan about 6:17am, lasted till 11am fol­low­ing the in­ter­ven­tion of se­nior of­fi­cers of both se­cu­rity out­fits and the Yobe State Gov­ern­ment.

A po­lice source, who did not want to be named be­cause he was not au­tho­rised to speak on the mat­ter, said that sol­diers went to the squadron com­man­der’s res­i­dence, lo­cated close to the Pres­i­den­tial Lodge, and picked him. He said the com­man­der was taken along with his es­corts to the Sas­sawa mil­i­tary base, an out­skirt of the town, where he was de­tained. He, how­ever, added that a se­nior army com­man­dant from the Oro 3 Op­er­a­tional The­atre, Da­maturu, who was not com­fort­able with the ar­rest, went to the mil­i­tary base and brought the com­man­dant to Da­maturu.

“Al­ready, the po­lice­men, who were an­gry, had mo­bilised and started ran­sack­ing ev­ery mil­i­tary lo­ca­tion to free their com­man­dant. Con­se­quently, they dis­cov­ered that he was at the Oro 3, along Po­tiskum road and stormed the area. They started shoot­ing in­dis­crim­i­nately and sol­diers re­sponded,” he said, adding that the com­man­dant sus­tained bul­let wounds while try­ing to con­trol his men.

“Ini­tially, the bul­lets were fired into the air, but they started aim­ing at one an­other when both sides recorded ca­su­al­ties,” he said, adding that the shoot­ing con­tin­ued as the wounded squadron com­man­dant was rushed to the Da­maturu Spe­cial­ist Hospi­tal.

When our cor­re­spon­dent vis­ited the hospi­tal, he saw the wounded com­man­dant, Dauda Buba Fika, at VIP8, Amenity Ward.

“He was just brought out of the op­er­a­tion the­atre, where two bul­lets were re­moved from his body,” one of the hospi­tal staff re­vealed.

A source in the hospi­tal also re­vealed that four se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives lost their lives while many oth­ers, in­clud­ing hap­less civil­ians, sus­tained var­i­ous de­grees of in­jury in the gun bat­tle. He said that one of the po­lice­men was brought to the hospi­tal dead while the other two and a sol­dier died on ar­rival due to ex­ces­sive bleed­ing.

But there was no con­fir­ma­tion of the above from both sides.

It was fur­ther gath­ered that apart from the in­tense trauma the res­i­dents suf­fered, an­gry se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives var­i­ously mo­lested them, halt­ing so­cio-eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties in the town.

Hood­lums also took ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion to steal from traders at the Bayan Tasha mar­ket.

Daily Trust on Sun­day ob­served that the ma­jor round­about in Da­maturu, which also serves as an in­ter­sec­tion lead­ing to Maiduguri, Gu­jba and Gashua, was blocked by sol­diers for hours. This devel­op­ment grounded the move­ment of ve­hi­cles to and from the Yobe State cap­i­tal.

A cam­era­man of Chan­nels Tele­vi­sion, Al­haji Bunu, who was on his way to the venue of a press brief­ing along Gashua Road at the in­stance of the com­mis­sioner of po­lice, was stopped by the po­lice. They shot at one of his back tyres and forced him out of the car. In ad­di­tion to tak­ing away his cam­era, they in­flicted in­juries in his right palm. He nar­rowly es­caped a gun­shot aimed at him by the mo­bile po­lice­men.

“They took away my cam­era and money while I nar­rowly es­caped, their bul­lets. I com­plied with ev­ery in­struc­tion given to me. They started hit­ting me with gun af­ter col­lect­ing the money. I started run­ning when I re­alised the dan­ger of their ac­tion. It was then that they shot at me. Thank God that I sur­vived it,” he said.

Mr. Marshell Alaji said he had to aban­don his car at the cen­tral round­about to es­cape the fly­ing bul­lets. “I ran into one small house where I found many peo­ple tak­ing refuge. Some min­utes later, an­other deaf­en­ing sound struck. When we went out, we saw some mil­i­tary men strug­gling to det­o­nate a grenade very close to the Al­heri Su­per­mar­ket. It was a ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for res­i­dents of Da­maturu, who thought that the era of in­se­cu­rity had gone,” he said.

Hal­ima Ali, a civil ser­vant in Sabon Fegi, said she was rat­tled by the gun­fire from 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 re­counted.

The Net­work of Yobe Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NYCSO) con­demned the clash, say­ing it in­stilled fear in the minds of res­i­dents.

Speak­ing on Wed­nes­day in Da­maturu dur­ing an in­ter­view with Daily Trust on Sun­day, the sec­re­tary of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, Dauda Muhammed Gombe said, “The fra­cas has re­newed fear in the minds of res­i­dents who have been en­joy­ing rel­a­tive peace for al­most two years. The peace we hith­erto en­joyed has been dis­rupted. Gov­ern­ment es­tab­lish­ments, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and busi­nesses were all shut be­cause of the un­for­tu­nate ac­tion of the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives.

“We are ap­peal­ing to the lead­er­ship of both se­cu­rity agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and take dis­ci­plinary mea­sures on the cul­prits so that is­sues like this would be averted in fu­ture,” he said.

He ad­vised the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to re­tain the con­fi­dence of peo­ple in the town. He also called on the peo­ple to con­tinue to sup­port the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tives.

In a four-para­graph state­ment jointly signed by the army and the po­lice, they con­firmed the clash, de­scrib­ing it as un­for­tu­nate.

Also, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by the Deputy Di­rec­tor, Army Pub­lic Re­la­tions, Colonel Kay­ode Ogun­soya, “The at­ten­tion of this head­quar­ters has been drawn to an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent be­tween some sol­diers and po­lice­men in Da­maturu this morn­ing.

“A joint com­mit­tee of the Nige­rian Army and the Nige­ria Po­lice Force has been set up to in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dent. This head­quar­ters wishes to as­sure mem­bers of the pub­lic that the sit­u­a­tion has been brought un­der con­trol and nor­malcy has been re­stored.”

In a meet­ing be­tween the Yobe State Gov­ern­ment and the two se­cu­rity agen­cies, Deputy Gover­nor Abubakar D. Aliyu, who stood in for Gover­nor Ibrahim Gaidam, con­demned the in­ci­dent. He urged them to work to­gether so as not to jeop­ar­dise peace in the state. Speak­ing to news­men af­ter the meet­ing, the com­man­der of the 27th Task­force Bri­gade, Bu­niyadi, Gen­eral Aminu Bande, said, “For now, the cause of the clash is not the is­sue be­cause it will af­fect the work of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team. The com­mit­tee will en­sure that the of­fi­cer found guilty is se­ri­ously dealt with.”

The Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, Yobe State com­mand, Su­monu Ab­dul­ma­liki, said they had made progress in re­solv­ing the cri­sis, adding that in­ves­ti­ga­tion would con­tinue.

“The meet­ing ended well. We will en­sure that is­sues like this are averted in the fu­ture,” he said.

From Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Da­maturu

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.