According to reports, the Niger State Police command yesterday said the Nigerian Army was being economical with the truth in its reasons for the invasion of Kpaidna and four other villages in Bosso Council of the state.
During the invasion last month, over 20 people, 11 of them soldiers, were killed, while several others were injured and property valued at millions of naira destroyed.
Following the incident, the state government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the remote and immediate causes of the disturbance and proffer recommendations on how to forestall future occurrence.
The state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Zubairu Muazu, in his testimony, submitted that the villagers attacked had no prior record of criminality, as claimed by the Army as reason for its ‘cordon and search’ operation on the villages it alleged to have stockpiled arms and ammunitions.
“There has never been any report of gun running or armed banditry in the area before the military invasion,” he said, pointing out that the Police had an outpost, which is five hundred metres from Kpaidna, where the incident occurred and “there has never been any report from the station about such incidents.”
Muazu, who said the crisis occurred only nine days after he assumed duties, added that he never received handover notes on the area being a dangerous spot.
He also faulted the Army for embarking on the ‘cordon and search operation’ alone, saying it 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’ could only be done through joint operation with the Police taking the lead and the Army providing cover, after search warrant must have been obtained.
In addition, he said that ‘cordon and search’ could only be done between the hours of 6am and 7pm, not 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, Muazu declared: “It is important and necessary that we all join hands together in situations like this so as to prevent future occurrence.”
Contrary to the Army’s claim, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also said it was not aware of the plan to carry out the operation.The state Commander, Mr. Philip Ayuba, who also testified before the commission yesterday, said it was the distress call of the villagers that attracted his command to the scene.
He also debunked the Army’s claim that the issue was discussed at the state security council meeting, insisting: “No issue of gun running or arms stockpile by these communities was discussed at any security meeting that I attended’”The commission would continue its sitting on Monday.