U.S-Trained Soldiers May Have Killed 3 Cops in Nigeria
U.S-Nigeria Relations Strained as Kidnapper Kingpin's Hit Squad Disappears
By Douglas Burton
August 17, 2019
By Douglas Burton
Three Nigerian police officers were murdered, allegedly at the hands of a corrupt Nigerian military unit trained by U.S. advisers — straining relations between the United States and Africa’s most populous country.
A suspected kidnapping kingpin, Hamisu Bala Wadume, was being taken into custody in the city of Ibi, Nigeria, when an ambush, allegedly by a secretive detachment of the Nigerian military, led to the deaths of three uniformed police officers on August 7.
President Muhammdu Buhari has long been faulted by his poltical opponents for alleged corruption and misuse of funds.
Wadume was again arrested in the village of Ibi on August 20, according to the online version of The Nation (Nigeria). He is now reportedly is being held now at a jail in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
During an arrest attempt on August 7 the suspected kidnapper stuck his head out of the police van window and told locals he himself was being kidnapped. Soon a crowd formed. Members of his alleged criminal gang encircled the van with their motorcycles, blocking its progress.
The beseiged Nigerian police were surprised when a Nigerian Army unit arrived. Any relief didn’t last long. The soldiers allegedly assaulted the police van holding Wadume, turning it on its side.
Surviving policemen showed their identification cards. One begged the soldiers: “please don’t kill me,” according to several Nigerian media outlets. But to no avail: one of the wounded cops was shot at point-blank range, according to witnesses, some of whom thought the cops were kidnappers themselves. In the mayhem, two law enforcement officials inside the van managed to escape into nearby bushes.
Alleged footage of the incident posted on WhatsApp, and other social media platforms, show three corpses as well as a dying policemen and a plainclothes civilian consultant.
Mistaken identity may have played a role. A police spokesmen issued a press release asserting that the tragic killings were a case of mistaken identity. In some of the footage, Nigerian soldiers are overheard saying they couldn’t kill the surviving policemen since they had been recorded at the scene on cell phones.
Nigeria’s Sunonline reported Sunday that Capt. Balarabe Tijani, took the so-called “millionaire kidnapper” to his home, where he used a welding tool to remove his handcuffs and leg irons.
President Buhari, a former Nigerian general himself, has called for a formal investigation. Six Nigerian soldiers have been arrested, including Tijani who was allegedly on the fugitive’s payroll. The army captain’s cell phone reportedly includes evidence of 191 calls with Wadume in the last month.
The incident is a tragic illustration of a nation sliding inexorably into lawlessness, say Nigerian experts in the United States and legal analysts in Nigeria. In 2014 the U.S. sold nearly $12 billion in arms to Nigeria. In addition, the U.S. government sends some $346 billion in humanitarian aid to Nigeria this year, according to Security Assistance Monitor.
“By all appearances, the Nigerian policemen were simply murdered by the army,” says Stephen Enada, founder of the International Committee on Nigeria, “This disturbing incident will strain the bilateral relationship between the United States and Nigeria… members of the U.S. House and Senate have told me that aid should be cut back if this is how it is being applied.”
“Citizens are suffering, and the Nigerian military is culpable,” Enada said. Enada says the Trump Administration should send a special envoy to the region.
“Nigeria’s crisis is one of disintegrating rule of law, and it will affect American trade and security,” he said.
The killings underscore the complaint of many that the Nigerian army has frequently been cooperating with terrorists,” says law instructor Solomon Musa in Zaria, a city in central Kaduna State.
Having studied the videotape and read accounts, Musa said,“The inescapable conclusion is that it was a deliberate murder by the soldiers.”
“First, the special police stopped at three checkpoints on the highway leading into the destination and chatted with the soldiers at each one, thereby giving notice that they would be arresting a suspect,” said Musa.
“Second, on the video, some of the policemen were saying they were from the inspector General’s office. And some, even facing the gunmen and writhing in pain were not spared,” Musa said.
“The question to ask is: Even if it were a case of mistaken identity, does the military have the authority to make extrajudicial killings? No. These were premeditated murders,” Musa said.