A drama occurred on Friday at the on-going Commission of Inquiry set up by the Niger State government to look into the immediate or remote causes of the bloody clash between the military and some communities in Bosso Local Government Area of the state recently when the state Police Command openly faulted the reasons given by men of the Nigerian Army for the invasion of these communities.
During the Military personnel invasion, over a month ago, no fewer than 24 people, 11 of them soldiers, were killed while several others were severely injured and property valued at several millions of Naira were also destroyed while the crisis lasted.
Against the backdrop of the unfortunate incident, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the immediate or remote cause of the disturbance and make recommendations to the government on how to forestall future occurrence.
But testifying before the commission in Minna on Friday, the state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Zubairu Muazu submitted that contrary to the claims by the military authorities, the villagers attacked had no prior record of criminality.
The Nigerian Army had put the blame of the “cordon and search” carried out on the communities on stockpiling of arms and ammunition by the villagers.
According to the police boss, “There has never been any report of gun running or armed banditry in the area before the military invasion. The police had an outpost which is five hundred meters from Kpaidna where the incident occurred and “there has never been any report from the station about such incidents”.
Alhaji Zubairu Muazu who said that the crisis occurred only nine days after he assumed duties as the state police commissioner said he never received handover notes on the area being a dangerous spot .
The police also faulted the army for embarking on the “cordon and search operation” alone saying the Army did not have constitutional powers to embark on such action without the presence of the police and other security agencies.
Muazu further submitted that “such cordon and search operation can only be done through joint operation with the police taking the lead while the army will provide cover”, pointing out that the operation must be carried out after search warrant must have been obtained.
In addition he said that “cordon and search operation” could only be done between the hours of 6am and 7pmnot the wee hours that the army carried out the operation”, stressing that the area could be cordoned at any time but the actual search can be conducted after 6am and it was the police that should carry out such search.
On how to forestall future incident, Alhaji Muazu declared that “it is important and necessary that we all join hands together in situations like this so as to prevent future occurrence”.
Contrary to the claim by the army the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps also said it was not aware of the plan to carry out the operation.
The state Commander, NSCDC, Mr Philip Ayuba who also testified before the commission on Friday said it was the distress call of the villagers that attracted his command to the scene.
He also debunked the claim by the army that the issue was discussed at the state Security Council meeting, pointing out that “No issue of gun running or arms stockpile by these communities was discussed at any security meeting that I attended’.
The commission will continue its sitting on Monday.