June 8, 2011

Police/Army clash:Why espirit de corps must not go on exile

Police/Army clash:Why espirit de corps  must not go on exile

Between 6am and 9:30am of Tuesday, October 4, 2005, the atmosphere in Ojuelegba, was its usual boisterous self. The early morning traffic was hectic as usual, just as members of the National Union of Road Transporrt Workers,NURTW, were in their element extorting money from bus drivers and dragging down defaulting bus conductors. In fact, every factor that made Ojuelegba a crowdy melting pot was present this day. Not even a passerby would imagine that shortly after 9;30 am, hell would be let loose and the area would become a war zone.

This descent to a state of anarchy, however, reportedly started, when a mobile policeman accosted a commercial vehicle in Ojuelegba for flouting traffic rules. A soldier was on board.

The police officer had reportedly assaulted the soldier in multi after some argument. The military officer promptly returned to his base, the Abati Barracks, Yaba, to mobilise his colleagues on a vengeance mission.

This left four dead and 60 charred vehicles in the wake of the incident, while many Police buildings in the Area ‘C’ Command of the Force, at Surulere, Lagos, were razed to the ground.

The arsonists in the invading force, in a temporary crisis, stormed the detention cells at the Police station, pulled down the cells’ doors and iron protectors and released all suspects, among them armed robbery and homicide suspects.

The incident informed the setting up of the Justice Emmnanuel Adegbite Independent Probe Panel by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Justice Emmanuel Adegbite panel

The panel, which is headed by the retired judge had the following terms of reference: Ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the clash of October 4, 2005 as well as the extent of damage done; Identify the culprits and recommend appropriate sanctions; Ascertain civilian victims and make appropriate recommendations for compensation to their families.

Others include; Make recommendations for more stringent control of the use of arms and ammunitions by law enforcement agencies and Make other recommendations with a view to preventing recurrence of such clashes in future.

The panel had a retired military personnel and Assistant Inspector General of Police as members.

They were Lt. Col. B.T. Mofobi (rtd) and Israel Ajao respectively.

The panel concluded its work within the stipulated time. Yet, as at the time of writing this report, the recommendations of the report has not been implemented.

While this waiting game for government white paper is on , a similar incident occured recently in Badagry.

Like the one before it, the Badagry clash started among the rank and file of the Police and Army.

It was gathered that trouble, began when some policemen at a checkpoint along the Badagry Road confronted a man in mufti, suspected to be a soldier, who was allegedly escorting goods from the Seme border.

The man was accused by the police of contravening traffic rules. Efforts were made by the police to arrest him, but he allegedly resisted arrest.

A police corporal was alleged said to have opened fire on the suspected soldier who later bled to death. After it realised that the victim was a soldier, all the policemen at road block, in the police stations and on duty along the road removed their uniforms and fled their duty posts.

The fear that the soldiers might come on reprisal attack was confirmed when some rampaging soldiers stormed some police stations along the road but did not meet their targets. The aggrieved soldiers therefore barricaded the road, searching for policemen inside the vehicles plying the Lagos/Badagry expressway.

DPO and DCO killed in alleged reprisal attack

While the soldiers were searching for policemen, the DPO, Mr. Samuel Salihu contacted the Army High Command who invited him for a peace meeting yesterday.

It was gathered that while the DPO, his DCO, who was identified as Samson Okedusi, a Superintendent of Police (SP), orderly and other officers were on their way to 242 Battalion, Ibereko Barracks, they were allegedly ambushed by some soldiers who opened fire on them. By the time the smoke settled, the DPO, DCO and six other persons were stone dead.

Tragic incidents of this nature have become a recurring decimal among units of the country’s security forces, VanguardFeaturesVF, checks revealed.

Why the armed forces, supposedly the embodiment of regimented discipline, always descend into street brawls with sister security agencies, is one question still begging for answer.

Although, some had attributed it to superiority contest among the various security agencies, it was gathered that beyond this, the alleged non obedience to the rule of law by most of the agencies is largely responsible.

Incidents becoming recurring decimal

This, in addition, does not negate other factors that are responsible for the recuring clash. It however, underscores the believe that security agencies, see the law as tools in their hands, or perhaps personal property.

“I think the way to avert further occurrence is for all agencies to operate in accordance with the rule of law. All citizens, whether in uniform or not should be obedient. If people are conscious of the fact that if they break the law, they will be punished accordingly, we would not have this kind of clash. So these are the two major conditions. All the security agencies should be obedient to the laws of the land, they should also be treated equally before the law,”A member of the Police Service Commission,PSC, Dr. Otivie Igbuzor told this reporter.

Federal govt did not implement white paper on Ojuelagba incident

While Mr. Sebastian Ozoana’s position does not undermine Ibuzors’, he reportedly fumed that had the Federal government, implemented the white paper on Ojuelagba Police/Army clash, the recent one would have been averted.

Ozoana, who is legal practitioner and counsel to the police when an enquiry was set-up to unravel the cause of the Ojuelegba crisis, reportedly said, “The non-issuance of white paper with regard to the last clash between the army and police here in Lagos, which everybody knew about, has done a lot of harm than good in preventing a recurrence. If you cast your mind back to October 4, 2005, when it was alleged that soldiers from Abati Barracks attacked Area C in Ojuelegba, burning the place and killing some policemen.

“A judicial commission of enquiry was set up by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, headed by one Justice Adegbite – a full-fledged panel of enquiry, titled independent panel of enquiry into police and army clash in Ojuelegba on October 4, 2005. That body sat for seven months during which both parties had the opportunity of presenting their case before the panel under the terms of reference. Till today, no white paper has been issued by the government. Maybe the report has been put away on a book shelf, and that is the end of the matter.

“I believe if the government had looked into the matter and issued a white paper, I don’t think we would have had another clash between the army and the police like the one we had in Badagry the other day.”

This has further popped up questions on why, non implementation of report of probe panels, has become a fashion among governments at all levels in Nigeria.

We’re facing one of the problems of public administration

While the reasons for lack of implementation are best known to the Federal government, Ibuzor sees it as one of the problems of public administration in Nigeria.

“The issue of non implementation of past report on this kind of clash, is one of the challenges of public administration in Nigeria. When something happens, you set up a probe panel and the recommendations of the panel will not be implemented,” he added.

Regardless of that, A Senior Advocate of Nigeria,SAN, Chief Emeka Ngige believes that, “the best way to avert further occurrence is that the government should intensify efforts in creating ideas that would foster good relationships among the armed forces. There is need for an enabling environment which would allow for social interaction among the army and the police and other agencies.”

In addition he said “ regularly there should be joint military patrol involving the Army, Navy, Airforce and Police. If that is done, the spirit of comradice would be encouraged and sustained. They should always have events together, like having officers mess together, because the problem is that they are having things in common. At the officers, level, there is need for regular meeting with officers from sister agencies.”

Going down memory lane, on the harmonious relationship that existed among the armed forces, Ngige said, “In the past officers used to be redeployed from one force to a different one, I wonder why it is longer happening.”

Against this background, he suggested that, “ The police could be redeployed to work with the Army, just as the army could be redeployed. So, meetings at the officers level has to be constant, because what is causing this thing is lack of communication. There should be communication among all agencies, that will foster their relationship. And it would go a long way in averting further occurrence.

Police-Army clash in foreign countries

Nonetheless, further investigations by VF discovered that Police-Army clash, is not restricted to Nigeria alone. It was gathered that in 1999, four persons including two jawans, were injured when Armymen clashed with the Railway police at the Bangalore Railway station, in India.

According to Railway police, about 300 jawans from Kashmir were stranded at Bangalore Railway station when their Army headquarters vehicles failed to pick them up on time.

In their frustration, a few Army jawans resorted to vandalism and damaged baggages. Two Railway policemen who arrived at the spot to control the situation were also beaten up by the enraged jawans.

Similarly, on December 4, 2009 the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police clashed in the capital city of Uruzgan province. The incident left several people dead and wounded, but the exact figures was not ascertained.

Timeline of past Army-Police clash

Aug 8, 2004

A bloody battle raged for several hours in Benin City, Edo State between soldiers and policemen that left several persons critically injured. Soldiers from the 322 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army clashed with policemen from the Oba market police station during .

October 4, 2005

Another clash between the police and Army at Ojuelegba. No fewer than five persons lost their lives

April 20 2011

Abdulllahi Garuba, a Police Corporal with Force no 244,238 serving at Mopol 2 Lagos had an argument with two Private of the Nigerian Army, Simon Lucky and Oladipo Temitope. The argument led to a brawl and the two privates beat up the police, stabbed him severally and left him half dead. He was rushed to a hospital where he later died. Both soldiers are yet to be prosecuted.

Febuary 2011

In Ilesha, Osun State a soldier was found dead in a gutter after embarking on a drinking spree. The soldiers attacked a nearby police station and manhandled several innocent civilians. These and other occurrences have been things of worry to the government even before the recent incident.

April 2006

There was yet another clash between policemen and men of the Nigerian Air Force at the PWD section of the Oshodi-Agege rail line in Lagos. The policemen had reportedly gone to conduct a raid on a shack suspected to be a base for criminals smoking marijuana. Whereas the men of the Air Force, in their account, alleged that the policemen assaulted them in the process, the Police claimed that the Air Force men were shielding the suspected criminals from lawful arrest. Be that as it may, what ensued was anarchy on parade, leading to several causalities.


Six policemen on routine patrol on the coastal waterways near the Takwa Bay, Lagos jetty of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), reportedly chased a speedboat they suspected to be occupied by some pirates.

On their way, a civilian boat occupied by about five naval men allegedly blocked the policemen. According to the policemen’s account, they told the Naval men that they were chasing some suspected pirates who had just driven past them. To use their words, “instead of assisting us in the chase, one of the Naval guys lifted his rifle and, before we knew it, shot a constable in our boat.” Although, according to an eyewitness, the other Naval men thereafter dropped their rifles, none of them assisted in rushing Constable Festus Akinruntan, the victim, to the military hospital, Ikoyi, where he was rushed to for treatment.

August 2009

At least six persons were reported dead with 15 others injured as the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) clashed with the police force.

The clash broke out between men of JTF guarding contractors dredging River Niger and Special Anti-Robbery Squad from Anambra State Police Command. They exchanged fire at the River Niger in Onitsha, Anambra State.