To properly probe the death of the three Police officers mistaken in an engagement with soldiers at military checkpoints in Takum, Taraba state, the Coalition for Justice and Peace Initiative has urged the presidential committee to stay away from social media.
The human rights group made the call on Saturday in a press statement signed by its Executive Director, Moses Danjuma, following the barrage of misleading footages and supposed eye-witness reports spreading across the media space.
While condemning the painful demise, the Coalition hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for investigation and the military’s prompt response to set up a seven-man panel.
However, the group lamented external interference bent on pitching the military against the police with specious information on social media, capitalising on national tragedy to promote their evil agenda.
The Coalition, therefore, called on the panel to shun the “ tainted facts being peddled” rather, “ as experts, rely on forensic evidence and the operational rules of engagement as well as witness interviews.”
Real full statement below:
Gentlemen of the press, we have been following public reactions to the death of three officers of the Nigeria Police Force Intelligence Response Team (IRS) following a mistaken engagement with soldiers at military checkpoints in Takum, Taraba state.
The deaths are indeed sad and Nigerians have been reacting to the ugly incident because no one ever expected that the Army and the Police, working for the common goal of providing security for the nation, will have an encounter where their officers will turn their guns on each other to the death.
It is reassuring that President Muhammadu Buhari has asked for an investigation and the Army has complied with the directive by setting up a seven-man panel to carry out the exercise. Only such a panel can report on what truly happened as opposed to the present barrage of information, most of which do not even have any bearing on that tragic event.
The outcome of the investigation will go a long way to reassure Nigerians that all is well with the security infrastructure in the country. It will also help flag what pitfalls to avoid in the future, which will make for a robust crime fighting arrangement in the land. It is also the one opportunity to review what was done wrongly in the entire sad theatre while offering insight into how not to repeat the same mistake.
We have however seen a pattern of interference with the investigation even before it has properly begun its work. The attempt to tamper with the panel, as we have observed, is not haphazard but rather well coordinated to the point where it appears as if the Nigeria Police Force is sponsoring them.
On the contrary, what a critical assessment shows is that the seeming attacks on each other in the media and social media space by the police and army is the handiwork of purveyors of hate between the two critical institutions. There are active cases of people speaking and writing in the social media as if they have been contacted by the police to malign its sister agency.
The logical conclusion for us therefore is that the semblance of media and social media attacks that appears to emanate from both institutions are in reality the making of kidnappers, armed robbers and bandits that are out to take advantage of the situation to further breach the security and peace of the country. They assume that they will have space to carry out their evil if the two organizations are at daggers drawn.
Neither the police nor the army will sponsor the kind of back and forth media attacks that are ongoing. The only statements from both organizations were the ones they made at the initial stage before Mr President directed that there should be an investigation. All the fresh round of information being thrown around is the creation of these dubious enterprises.
Our appeal is for Nigerians to beware of falling for this trick by those who believe that contentions between military and security agencies will neutralize the ability of these agencies to deliberately fight crime. It is a scenario that cannot be allowed to play out.
We urge the army and the police to, in the interest of the nation’s security, shelve any acrimony between them. More will be gained by using whatever findings the investigation will make to improve inter-agencies collaboration in a way that will help us avoid the mistake that led to the tragic loss of life in Taraba state.
Both agencies should respect Mr President enough to not engage in acts that could potentially tarnish their image. The police must particularly urge restraints among those pretending to advance its interest in the social media when in reality they are out to ridicule it.
We even expect that the police will take the extra step of tracking down those that post misleading messages on its behalf and have them tried under the Cyber Crime Act. Such persons can also be tried for impersonation since that is what they are doing online.
As for the criminals that are eager to capitalize on a national tragedy as cover to promote criminality, we want to confidently let them know that institutions in Nigeria have persistently demonstrated capacity to defeat the underwood and the present situation will not be different. The army will continue to be rated as a superlative organization by those who appreciate the great role it has played in dealing with terrorists, bandits and kidnappers alike. The improving image of the police in crime fighting will not be lost on anyone as well.
Meanwhile, we urge members of the panel to insulate themselves from the tainted facts being peddled in the public space but to rather, as experts, rely on forensic evidence and the operational rules of engagement as well as witness interviews. Nigerians repose much hope in its work and they do not deserve to be let down.