Taraba killings: Kidnap don, senior police officer exchanged 200 calls

Investigations into the killings of the Police Intelligence Response Team operatives by soldiers of 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019, have unearthed shocking criminal collaboration between the fleeing kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala, ( aka Wadume), and some senior police officers at the Ibi Police Division.

Wadume, who allegedly masterminded many kidnappings, was being taken to the Taraba State Police Command in Jalingo by the Police IRT team when they came under attack from soldiers believed to be loyal to the kidnap kingpin.

Three officers – Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeants Usman Danzumi, Dahiru Musa – and an IRT informant, Olajide Owolabi, died as a result of gunshot injuries, while others sustained gunshot wounds during the attack.

But latest findings by detectives showed that the Divisional Crime Officer at the Ibi Divisional Police station had over 200 phone calls with Wadume, Saturday PUNCH findings revealed.

The shocking discovery was made following the arrest of the DCO on the orders of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Michael Ogbizi.

Ogbizi had visited the scene of the incident and also gone to the police station where he interacted with the personnel on the ground.

He was said to have requested to see the incident book where entries were made but the DIG was shocked to find that certain pages had been torn off.

Top police sources said the DIG further scrutinised the entries, only to discover that the entry indicating that the IRT team was in the jurisdiction for the arrest of Wadume was missing.

The removal of the entry was believed to be a ploy to give the impression that the IRT team did not follow laid down procedures.

A source said, “On discovering that the documentation of the IRT team was not reflected in the incident book, the DIG promptly ordered the arrest of the DCO and the Station Officer who were taken to the Force Criminal Investigation Department cell in Abuja.

“A forensic analysis of the call logs of the DCO showed that he had made over 200 calls to Wadume over a few days. The startling revelations made the police leadership to wake up to the fact that the soldiers alone were not culpable or responsible for the killing of the IRT team.

“There seems to be a deeply entrenched criminal network and deep operational collaboration between the kidnap gangs in the area, the police at Ibi Division and some soldiers of the 93 Battalion, Takum, which would require a very comprehensive and painstaking investigation to unearth and dismantle.”

Further findings by the police detectives also indicated that many policemen and soldiers might be on the payroll of Wadume, including an army captain who allegedly issued the order for the attack on the IRT personnel leading to the eventual rescue and escape of the kidnap kingpin.

Saturday PUNCH gathered that the police investigators were working to establish the financial connections between Wadume, the soldiers and the policemen involved in the killings.

Following the discovery of the roles played by the senior police officers in the incident, the force had kept mum, refusing to disclose any information remotely connected to the ongoing investigation.

The police spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, failed to respond to inquiries on the probe on Friday.

Calls to his phone rang out and he had yet to respond to an SMS inquiring about the detention of the senior police officers as of the time of filing this report on Friday.

Aside from the ongoing police investigation, a joint investigation panel, headed by Rear Admiral IT Olaiya, a former Director of Naval Intelligence, had been constituted by the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, to probe the incident.

This followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari asking the military to investigate the killings.

The panel also has as members a representative each from the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Services and the Defence Intelligence Agency.

The acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who announced this last week explained that the seven-man panel would unravel the circumstances that led to the incident between the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police resulting in the killing of three police operatives and a civilian along the Ibi-Wukari road in Taraba State.

Adelani Adepegba

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