The joint panel that investigated the August 6 killing of three police officers and two civilians by soldiers at a checkpoint near Wukari, Taraba state, turned in a report slightly over a week ago. The inquiry was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari following the huge public outrage that the killings provoked. The BOI’s report was submitted to the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Olonisakin. A statement by Defence Headquarters, Abuja, said in part: “After a thorough and painstaking investigation into the incident, the BOI submitted its report to the convening authority, observing that there were infractions and poor communication between personnel of the NPF and troops of the NA. It was also observed that there was non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure by both parties involved in the incident. It further made some recommendations to the NA and NPF to forestall future reoccurrence and bring anyone culpable to book in accordance with extant laws.
“The BOI also recommended that the NA and NPF further investigate Captain Tijani Balarabe, Sergeant Ibrahim Mohammed, Corporal Bartholomew Obanye, DCO, Ibi Police Division, Assistant Superintendent of Police Aondoona Iorbee, and Inspector Aliyu Dadje for complacency and necessary disciplinary measures. It was also recommended that further investigation be conducted on Hamisu Bala (Wadume) for gunrunning and possible kidnapping, in order to prosecute the suspect.
“Additionally, the BOI recommended that the Services and other security agencies establish an Interagency Liaison Desk to include senior officers for timely resolution of future misdemeanor.”
Firstly, we note that the BOI took longer than the time given to it to finish the inquiry and submit its findings in a case that had become very emotive. This led to allegations in certain quarters of an attempted cover-up. Secondly, if the panel’s investigation was “thorough and painstaking” as claimed by Defence Headquarters, why did it only recommend “further investigation” of persons whose roles in the killings had been confirmed? Why not simply say this and that should be done to them? Thirdly, it does not make sense to mandate the CDS, whose neutrality the Nigeria Police Force, may doubt, to make the final recommendations on the matter to President Buhari. In our Aug. 15 2019 editorial, we had referenced that unstated doubt when we asked why Police Hqtrs chose to conduct a parallel inquiry to the one ordered by Mr. President. “This can only be the outcome of mistrust”, we said. “This is not good. We believe the joint team … should be trusted to do a thorough job of the investigation. If, at the end, the outcome is not seen to be impartial, it is then that questions, if any, should be raised”. In our view, the panel’s insipid recommendations do not reflect the claimed thoroughness of the inquiry. It is now left to Mr. President, who has the final say in the matter, to salvage this unsatisfactory inquiry.