EDITORIAL: Armed conflicts between Army, Police and civilian population

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The immediate past General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Umar Musa, said the soldiers linked to the death of a Police Inspector, Monday Orukpe, reacted to a gunshot fired by the late policeman.

Uba Group

Musa, a Major-General, was handing over to the new GOC, 81 Division, Obinna Ajunwa, when he made the statement at the division’s headquarters in the Victoria Island area of Lagos State.

While noting that investigations were still ongoing, Musa said preliminary findings revealed that the police officer shot at one of the soldiers during the altercation, adding that the bullet missed the soldier’s vital parts.

“The other soldiers reacted to the shot fired by the police officer and this led to their beating the policeman to death. We have paid a condolence visit to the Commissioner of Police to tell him that we will take necessary measures to prevent future occurrences of such nature.

“The injured soldier is in hospital receiving treatment and investigation is ongoing to ascertain the next line of action to be taken,” Musa said according to the News Agency of Nigeria.

An inspector serving with the Lagos State Police Command, Orukpe Monday, died from the torture he allegedly received from soldiers who attacked him and his colleagues in the Trade Fair area of Lagos State.

Another Inspector, Igbafe Ojo, who was also reportedly tortured by the soldiers, is hospitalised at the military hospital in the Ojo Military Cantonment, where doctors were said to be battling to save his life.

The soldiers were on their way to attend a training programme at the Ojo Military Cantonment penultimate Wednesday when the bus conveying them to the venue encountered mild traffic around the Trade Fair area of the Lagos Badagry Expressway.

An eyewitness said some of the soldiers, upon realising that the traffic was caused by policemen trying to pave the way for a truck driver to link the expressway, alighted from the vehicle to challenge the policemen.

The eyewitness, however, said the situation led to an argument that degenerated into a fight when one of the soldiers allegedly slapped one of the policemen, adding that the soldiers arrested two policemen. The three other policemen were said to have fled the scene.

Nigerians should be worried at the escalating number of armed confrontations between the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force on the one hand, and non-state actors on the other.

On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, there were reports of a massive military attack on Konshisha, a remote village in northern Benue State.
The Nigerian Army had reportedly drafted full force on three communities in the area, killing an undisclosed number of people, burning down hundreds of houses and displacing thousands.

This was reportedly a barefaced retaliatory attack on the people of the area after 10 soldiers were killed in what the Nigerian Army described as “an unprovoked attack” by yet-to-be-identified gunmen.

“The Police and Army are always seen to be at loggerheads as this case of the killing of a policeman is not the first time and the situation doesn’t appear to have abated”

The troops were reported to be on “a peace mission” in the area which is a theatre of frequent conflicts between Tivs and Jukuns as well as armed herdsmen who attack farming communities to take over their lands.

Also, on Friday, April 8, 2021, men of the Aba Area Command of the Nigeria Police reportedly went on a general rampage, attacking members of the public, and destroying cars and tricycles apparently in retaliation for the beating of their colleague by some unidentified persons.

Soldiers of the Nigerian Army have been known to take the law into their hands and militarily invade any area where they lose personnel to armed attacks.

We saw this in Odi and Zaki Biam during the Olusegun Obasanjo era and recently in the air strikes on targets in Orlu, Imo State and Ntak Ikot Akpan village in Essien Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom State.

The Police, which have recently come under attacks by hoodlums and the so-called “unknown gunmen”, appear to have also embraced the same act of impunity towards the civilian population.

“CBN"

Armed state actors are increasingly responding to the hostility of the public with extra-constitutional, revanchist measures. This is sad and unacceptable. We insist that the law, not jungle justice, be followed in dealing with all criminality.

Aggression against our uniformed personnel must be thoroughly investigated and culprits brought to book. Jungle justice that targets innocent civilians is barbaric. Enemies of a community might resort to deliberately ambushing soldiers as a strategy to draw military destruction to them.

The major source of public hostility to the armed forces and police is rooted in the growing perception that apart from their extortionate and oppressive posture, they are now being deployed to either condone or even facilitate the settlement of armed herdsmen in indigenous people’s forests and farmlands.

The Federal Government must make greater efforts to debunk this perception by protecting people’s lives and property. These conflicts might develop into full-blown anarchy unless the armed forces and police fully resume their constitutional duties of protecting the people rather than being seen as the agents of their oppression or occupation.

The greatest problem which has been acknowledged across the board is the lack of inter-agency collaboration between our security agencies.

There is always suspicion and lack of trust even among security agencies.

The Police and Army are always seen to be at loggerheads as this case of the killing of a policeman is not the first time and the situation doesn’t appear to have abated.

In Nigeria, too much involvement of the military in internal security management will always lead to these kinds of infractions.

The military should be used sparingly for internal security issues to avoid such a situation.

We condemn this recent action by the soldiers which is an act of impunity.

The problem with the Nigerian military is a culture of impunity, where people do things and do it with the background understanding that there can never be consequences for their actions.

It is this culture of impunity that empowers the military with the effrontery to be brutal to citizens and other members of other armed forces, carry out shootings and other extra-judicial issues.

When they are confronted, they will tell you, “I will shoot you and nothing will happen.”

It is ridiculous for armed operatives to attack another officer from another force. This must not be allowed to continue.

We demand an end to this culture of impunity by our uniformed personnel. We also demand justice for Inspector Orukpe and other victims of these acts of oppression.