By ALBERT AKPOR & Kingsley Omonobi
IBEREKO ROUNDABOUT, BADAGRY — IT all started like the usual joke between motorists and police officers at Police checkpoints. A vehicle that was on its way from Nigeria-Seme border was flagged down by some policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, who were on routine patrol of the area for a search.
Suddenly, a man in mufti whose identity is yet to be ascertained, jumped out of the vehicle, introduced himself as a soldier serving with the 242 Recce Battalion, Badagry and ordered the policeman to stop wasting their time and allow the vehicle to go. But the resolute officer demanded to know what was in the vehicle before being allowed to go.
A mild argument soon ensued which degenerated into the use of strong and derogatory words. Just then, the trigger went off, and the soldier lay flat on the ground in the pool of his blood.
News of the killing filtered like the harmattan fire into the barracks. This immediately sparked off anger and an emergency meeting between some soldiers who vowed to retaliate the killing.
On Tuesday morning, as early as 8.00am, a group of heavily armed soldiers trooped to the roads in search of policemen. They searched every vehicle and checkpoints where any policeman spotted was given the beating of his live. Some who were not so lucky were shot dead.
The rage extended to the barracks. Some policemen and their family members who had hitherto lived in harmony with their military counterparts were chased out of the barracks amidst beating and torture.
The skirmish got to a head after the Divisional Police Officer, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP Saliu Samson; his Divisional Crime Officer, DCO, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Samuel who were on a peace mission to the barracks to meet with the Commander of Ibereko Barracks, Colonel Nabasa, were accosted by the rampaging soldiers and shot dead in their vehicle.
The whole of the ancient town of Badagry literally became a theatre of war. The soldiers were still not satisfied as they stormed the police station, maimed and short dead eight other police officers. Two police patrol vans belonging to RRS were set ablaze while their occupants fled into the bush.
As at 2.30pm on Tuesday, corpses littered the road while motorists who did not know what was going on parked and jumped into the bush. It took the intervention of both the army and Police higher authorities to bring raging soldiers to order.
It will be recalled that in October 2005, a similar incident occurred at Ojuelegba roundabout in Surulere where about five persons were killed while the Area C command headquarters was set ablaze. Over 60 vehicles and 20 SUV vehicles were also burnt.
Soon after this ugly incident, government set up a panel to look into the immediate and remote causes of the fracas and that was how the whole thing died a natural death. Though, Lagos State government undertook to renovate the razed Area C building into a modern edifice and work has been seen to be in progress, little has been heard of the punishment meted to those hat wrecked the havoc.
No soldier involved in the killings – Army
ABUJA—THE Nigerian Army, yesterday, declared that no soldier or soldiers were involved in the skirmishes and confrontation that led to the death of a Divisional Police Officer, DPO, as well as a Divisional Crime officer (DCO) in the Badagry area of Lagos as reported by the media.
The Army made the clarification just as Vanguard gathered that a confrontation between members of the Truck Drivers Association plying the Lagos-Badagry-Seme road and Policemen from the Divisional Police station at Badagry, over constant harassment of their vehicles by the Police even after they have met all requirements of the Nigeria Customs and Immigration for safe passage of their goods, allegedly led to fracas.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Rafael Isah while reacting to the alleged bloodbath between some Police and Army personnel, said: “No soldier was involved in the killing as alleged. In fact, the report is a figment of imagination of those who expected reprisals of some sort” when an army personnel was killed.
According to General Isah, “during the period that the confrontation was said to have held, all soldiers were confined to the barracks. Another thing is that soldiers do not have ammunition to waste and unaccounted for. Aside that; soldiers do not go matcheting after shooting dead a person”.
Expatiating further, he said, “There were reports of some bloody civil unrest in Badagry by Truck Drivers Association earlier on that fateful day which the Nigeria Police in Badagry tackled. It happened around the Bagi Police check point on the Seme Badagry road”.
“For now, the Nigerian Army will continue to explore an avenue that makes for better cooperation with sister security services rather than be distracted by sensational and baseless claims”.
Giving an account of what happened, the Director said, “When the soldier was shot by policemen near Badagry roundabout some days ago, men of operation MESA (army component) were at a very close range but never took the law into their hands. Rather they decided to arrest the policemen involved in the killing of the soldier to a safe custody”.
“From preliminary investigations, there were no reprisals of any kind since that day. As a follow up to the preliminary investigation conducted Tuesday by the Commander, 9 Brigade, Ikeja, Brigadier General S. A. Muazu and Lagos State Police Commissioner, which did not reveal the perpetrators of such dastardly act, a joint investigation has been ordered by the Chief of Army Staff in conjunction with the Inspector General of Police”.
“We wish to state that the relationship between the Nigeria Army and Police has been most cordial. We have been training together at the Nigeria Army intelligence school where the Police have about 900 personnel. Even now, there are 160 police personnel and their families living inside our barracks at Badagry.”