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Army explains cause of bloody clash between police, soldiers

Posted by By Emma Nnadozie on 2005/10/08 | Views: 607 |

Army explains cause of bloody clash between police, soldiers


Military authorities in Lagos yesterday gave vivid account of the cause of last Tuesday's clash between soldiers at the Abalti Barracks and the Police at Area C Command all in Surulere in which lives were lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed and maintained that the incident was really avoidable while the escalation was unwarranted.

Military authorities in Lagos yesterday gave vivid account of the cause of last Tuesday's clash between soldiers at the Abalti Barracks and the Police at Area C Command all in Surulere in which lives were lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed and maintained that the incident was really avoidable while the escalation was unwarranted.

Addressing a crowded press conference at the Headquarters, 81 Division, Nigerian Army at Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, the General Officer Commanding, Major-General Samaila Iliya regretted that some Nigerians suffered as a result of the incident which he said was caused after a misunderstanding between three persons, a commercial motorcyclist, a soldier and a policeman.

According to him, "This incident happened between two persons initially and later the third person, a commercial motorcyclist popularly called Okada. We had this soldier who departed from Abalti Barracks and was on his way to the bank. His name is Private Tajudeen and he mounted a commercial motorcycle.
"On their way just by Ojuelegba under the bridge, a man in mufti who claimed to be a police officer stopped them and asked for money from the commercial motorcyclist before they could continue with their journey. The soldier questioned the policeman and asked that they should be allowed to continue with their journey but the policeman refused and during the misunderstanding that ensued, the policeman hit the soldier on the head with the butt of his rifle.

"The soldier fell down and by the time he recovered, of course, you would expect him to clash with the policeman and coincidentally, there was another soldier who was passing by and who saw what happened to his colleague. When they confronted the policeman, he cocked his rifle but the soldiers disarmed him after which, one of the soldiers proceeded to report the case at the Area C, police station while his colleague went back to the barracks.

"The case was reported and while the police was acting, rumour started going round that there was a clash between soldiers and the police and that even a soldier was killed. While this rumour was making round, soldiers coming to work through that very point were molested and taken to the police station.

The driver of a General who was driving by with his staff car was not only arrested but detained behind the counter while the staff car was smashed.
"Thereafter, I would imagine that the police also wanted to regain their weapon and at the same time while all these things were going on, a lot of people gathered and information now filtered to me at the headquarters and we tried very quickly to see how we can mitigate the situation. I called the Commander on the ground at Abalti Barracks who also tried to see what he could do.

"We also asked military police to move in quickly and that if there were soldiers out on the street, return them back to the barrack. I was already taken prompt action and trying to get in touch with the Commissioner of Police while our operation officer was also directed to move to the scene with a combined team of military and police personnel who have been involved in a peace-keeping operation in the entire state which we code-named, ‘MESSR’ and by the time they got to the police station, it had already being set ablaze and they found it very difficult to control the crowd..

"I later called the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in-charge 0f zone 2 and all of us met there where we saw the station o fire. We also saw the wounded and we tried to direct our men to control the situation with whatever was available by even urging the nearby Fire service to help while they complained that they had no vehicle to do their duty. As we were on this, havens opened up and there was rainfall. We immediately directed our men to use every available container to scoop[ water and put off the raging fire and they responded quickly.

"This continued until Fire service people came and we decided that soldiers should move out while it was time for stock-taking. When I visited the military hospital, I saw a wounded Naval rating and a bus driver who had deep cut at his arm. Thereafter, we compared notes and discovered that really during the incident, some rifles were seized and I ordered that the weapons be returned immediately to the police and it was done.

"Six policemen and Traffic wardens who went to the barracks out of their own volition and for security reasons were returned to the police. After that, the AIG called to inform me that the PPRO was being molested and by the time I got there, he had being released to the police. That, in a nutshell was how this thing developed. I will want to tell you that we, in the Military will try as much as possible to account for our ammunition just to be sure that we hadn’t anyone missing and to make sure that any soldier who was on duty and fired any round will account for it and that is the standard operational procedure that we have in the Military".
Major-General Iliya further assured that the board of enquiry established by the Army Headquarters will be headed by a seasoned and very senior Major-General with other very senior officers who will be able to actually get to the root of the matter and give their own recommendations.



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