By Ben Agande, Laide Akinbode and Abel Daniel, Lafia , Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with heads of all the security agencies in the country to review the murder of over 80 policemen in Nasarawa and Bama in Borno states between last Monday and Tuesday.
About 23 policemen were massacred in Bama, Borno State while over 60 others suffered same fate in Nasarawa, with the additional 20 bodies recovered yesterday as 40 others were earlier recovered Wednesday.
The meeting which lasted for about two and half hours had in attendance, the Chief of Defence staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim; National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; the Chief of Naval Staff, Dele Ezeoba; the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Abubakar and the the Director General of the Department of State Security, DSS, Ita Ekpenyong.
The Chief of Army Staff was represented by Maj. General Emmanuel Bassey, Chief of Policy and Plans in the Army Headquarters.
The meeting took place at State House, Abuja even as the Nasarawa State police command yesterday arrested two policemen who allegedly gave information that led to the killing of no fewer than 60 of their colleagues who were on a mission to arrest the chief priest of Omatse cult at Alakio, about 10 kilometres from Lafia, Nasarawa State, Tuesday.
Widows of the over 60 policemen who were brutally murdered in an ambush by the Omatse cult members also yesterday barricaded the Lafia-Akwanga highway to protest the massacre of their husbands, wailing and chanting songs.
The widows and hundreds of sympathizers created a chaotic traffic situation at Squadron 38 Mobile Base, Ubbe Junction as they blamed the state governor, Alhaji Tankuo Al-Makura for exposing their husbands and breadwinners to undue risks by sending them on fatal assignment, without the requisite intelligence backup.
However, the security chiefs who met with Jonathan declined to speak with the press, although, the IGP Abubakar, who wore a black arm band to the meeting, described the murder of the police officers as a sad development for the country before he was shielded into his waiting car by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba and the Director General of DSS, Ita Ekpenyong.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade who attended the meeting briefly before he was excused to allow the president meet with the service chiefs and the IGP separately told newsmen that though the killing of security personnel who are paid to protect Nigerians was a sad development, the police would not carry out any reprisal attack on the community because it would not solve the problem.
Olubolade said, “it is sad that those who are protecting lives and property are becoming the targets of various insurgents and criminals, be it political or otherwise.
”The security agencies particularly the police will not want to go and revenge, it is not going to help us because they are supposed to protect lives and property; going to revenge will not douse tension and will bring about lack of confidence in the system. So, we will strictly discourage that.”
The Minister further said that President Jonathan “is looking at how we can put an end to all these troubles we are having and I think at the end of that deliberation, you will get to know the outcome”.
He said though the President has increased government’s support to the police in recent times more than ever before, the challenges confronting the force have also increased. What is important now is to re-strategise and empower the police the more so that they can carry out their responsibilities.”
He defended the police decision to effect the arrest of the alleged leader of the cult group, noting that “the police will not just wake up and pick their leader if nothing had gone wrong.
”The populace must know that anybody can be brought in by the police for interrogation depending on the intelligence the police have and that is what happened.”
Reacting to the call in some quarters for the declaration of a state of emergency in the troubled states, Captain Olubolade said it is a decision that only the president can take and urged populace “to look inwards as Nigerians, work together, give information to the security agencies who in turn will protect them.”
However, earlier yesterday morning, the widows of the slain officers, most of them young women who protested along the Akwanga- Lafia highway, wailed uncontrollably just as they accused Al-Makura of insensibility to their plight. According to them, Al-Makura had not visited them or said anything reasonable since their bread winners were massacred.
The highway was blocked with stones, logs of wood and tree branches, just as Okuchku bush path, which should have been an alternative route, was equally blocked, thereby forcing commuters to spend several hours in the scorching sun as the protest lasted.
One of the widows who spoke with Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity lamented that her children had consistently asked for the whereabouts of their father in the last four days without her being able to provide any response, a situation she said had become a burden to her.
“I haven’t slept neither have I eaten since they killed my husband. The governor of Nasarawa State, has not addressed us. They have refused to release the body of my husband. And nobody is telling us what is going on,” another mourner said. Perplexed travellers who were trapped by the protests were still in their endless wait, as the time of filing this report at about 4 pm.
The delegation from the widows of the slain officers later visited Governor Al-Makura at Government House, Lafia to express their pain and grievances over the cruel murder of their spouses who they said had served the country faithfully.
Al-Makura sympathized with the widows and assured them that the perpetrators ‘’shall surely be brought to book,’’ just as he also promised that government would compensate them.
Meanwhile, confirming the arrest in Lafia, of two police corporals who reportedly gave out information that led to the Nassarawa massacre, the Police Commissioner, Mr. Abayomi Akeremale said the two suspects were arrested following a tip off.
The two suspects who were part of the 117 security personnel detailed to arrest the Omatse chief priest were said to be natives of the area but they allegedly alerted the cult members who moblised and laid ambush for the unsuspecting members of the team.
Sources told Saturday Vanguard that the policemen who whose names were given as Corporals Enugu and Haruna Joseph, led the way, described the type of vehicle they would be inside and reportedly told them that they should start firing as soon as their van had passed.
But Akeremale said, “When we went to search his house, we recovered a lot of arms and charms and as insiders, both took part in the operation. This goes with the saying that the insect that eats cola lives inside the cola. They were the insiders that were giving information about the movement of our policemen.
There are also some accomplices they were working with but we will start with them so that we can get the others. There was a confirmation that the cache of arms that we were looking for (that led to the massacre) are somewhere and is a threat to the society, not only to the police officers that are trying to maintain law and order but other innocent members of the society and that is how we stake our lives so that other will live.”