..Despite our distress calls, navy officers’ attack on police station, with `war weapons’, continued till midnight — Ugbo, Cross River Police Spokesperson.
By Emmanuel Unah
The gaping holes on the walls of the main block of Akim Police Station, Calabar spoke volumes of the intention of those who pumped bullets into it: To kill. And by the time the dust settled, Sergeant Emmanuel Mbang lay dead. Corporal Davies was hit and badly injured.
The event of Tuesday evening in the Cross River State capital still baffles after some navy officers allegedly turned assault rifles that ordinarily have been used in war situations on the police station following a misunderstanding between two navy officers and a traffic policeman at IBB/ Stadium Roundabout, Calabar.
An eye witness told Sunday Vanguard that the events that led to the attack on the police station started after an altercation at the junction when a traffic policeman on duty confronted two navy officers negotiating with a keke rider hawking sachet water right in the middle of the road and told them to move to the side of the road because they were obstructing traffic.
The two navy men, though dressed in mufti, were said to have taken offence that the policeman confronted them and engaged him in verbal exchange which degenerated into fisticuff. When another policeman who had closed from work and was on his way home attempted to intervene, the policeman was also beaten up.
“It was at that point that somebody alerted the Akim Police Station nearby and some policemen rushed here in a pickup van. When they tried to arrest the men and take them to the station, they identified themselves as navy men and rushed to their barracks down the road and came back with guns and began to shoot”. Orok, a taxi driver operating from a park close to the junction who said he witnessed the incident narrated.
According to him, by the time the navy men came back, the police van had taken the traffic policeman who was bleeding from his right eye to hospital; so the navy men set the traffic control cage at the junction ablaze and from there headed to the Akim Police Station.
On arriving at the station, the navy men began shooting and the policemen at the station returned fire. Overwhelmed, the navy men went back to their barracks and, on returning with assault rifles, crawled through the drainage separating the navy barracks from the police station to get a good view of the station and began sporadic shooting.
Irene Ugbo, Cross River State Police Command spokesperson, said the moment the state Police Commissioner, Hafiz Inuwa, got wind of the attack, he asked the policemen at the station to stand down immediately which they did.
“He tried to get in touch with the Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command but did not get through. He eventually got through to the NNS Victory Commander who said he was going to stop his boys but the shooting went on till midnight”, Ugbo told Sunday Vanguard.
“Those guns are assault rifles and the police do not have them. The policeman on guard duty, Sergeant Emmanuel Mbang, was hit and died. The station and two operations vehicles were set on fire by the firepower from those rifles”.
She said the second policeman, Corporal Davies Adudu, was shot some distance from the scene of the fight while reporting for duty at the Police Officers’ Mess along Moore Road.
“One then begins to wonder the intention of our brothers if they were out to kill every policeman in sight for nothing. Have we had any trouble with them in the recent past?”, the spokesperson wondered.
Debbie Edwards, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the Akim Police Station, had blood shot eyes when our reporter visited the station on Wednesday morning possibly from the previous day’s incident because she was said to be in her office when the navy men struck. Edwards refused to speak on the issue, saying the PPRO was the right official to talk to newsmen.
Senator Ben Ayade, the governor of the state, who visited the Akim Police Station on Wednesday morning, expressed anger at what happened and called for immediate cessation of hostilities.
“I just met with all the service commanders on the incident that happened yesterday in a Security Council Meeting and I must say it is very unfortunate”, Ayade said.
“I however like to reassure Cross River State residents and indeed all Nigerians that the whole area is calm after the unfortunate incident that arose from the misunderstanding between the officers, one from the police and another from the navy”
The governor, however, promised to take full responsibility for all the damages arising from both sides of the face-off while urging security officers and men operating in the state to see themselves as partners in progress at all times.
Commander, Nigerian Navy Victory Ship, Commodore Sid Jubril, said: “We are saddened by the incident that happened yesterday. I am, however, very delighted to tell you that normalcy has returned.
“Let me assure you that the culprits will be brought to book, properly investigated and appropriate sanctions meted to them.”
He promised adequate protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
Inuwa , the state Police Commissioner said, “We are glad to announce to the populace that Calabar and the entire state is calm and our status as the safest state remains without a doubt.
“All the service commanders in the state are one and active partners in progress, particularly on issues of security and protection of lives and property of the citizenry.”
Relations between the two forces have not been always been smooth. In 2014, a navy rating identified as Udoette Joseph, allegedly stabbed a police constable, Sunday Agida, to death with bayonet after a heated argument.
The argument followed a minor car accident which happened in front of the policeman wife’s shop at 13 Barracks Road, involving the vehicle of the navy rating and a lady..
“I noticed that when the accident occurred, the navy man and the lady started claiming right and all efforts to get the matter settled by passers-by proved abortive as the navy man became aggressive. Eventually, the patrol team from Akim Police came to the scene and took them to the station for settlement; even at that the navy man almost resisted being taken to the station”, Mercy, the wife of the policeman, said at the time.
“By the time they left, my husband came to the shop to pick me, this was around 11pm and I had already closed my shop. I told him that we should go home, but he (my husband) was talking with a friend who had come with him. Suddenly, the navy rating resurfaced and started harassing the man that was talking with my husband, saying he was among those who had earlier confronted him when the accident happened.
“But my husband knew, and which was the truth, that the accusation was wrong because my friend strolled in with him. The navy man came to them and started another round of trouble with my husband’s friend but as soon as my husband intervened the navy man brought out a bayonet and stabbed him on his stomach.