President Goodluck Jonathan met with top police chiefs on Thursday in an attempt to resolve the feud between the police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) over the alleged killing of two civil defence officers by the police while guarding a petroleum pipeline against vandals.
The police team that met with President Jonathan was led by a Deputy Inspect0r-General of Police, Suleiman Fakai, who stood in for the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, who was out of the country. Other members of the team included the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko; Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Anti-vandalism, Friday Ibadin; and the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, to the President.
The team were said to have alleged to the president that the NSCDC officers opened fire first on policemen who were on patrol of the area.
A source in the Presidency confided in this correspondent that the security manager of the affected depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was in the police team that met with the president and corroborated the police account.
He said, “The police team told the President that the police patrol team dispatched to the area ran into about 14 NSCDC officials in two Hilux trucks.
“They claimed that the NSCDC officials challenged the four policemen on patrol on what they were doing in the area since it is their own responsibility to protect pipelines.
“They also claimed that the leader of the NSCDC team ordered his men to disarm a Police Inspector who led the team and arrest him. They also told the President that it was the pistol, walkie-talkie and the identity card they seized from the arrested Inspector that the NSCDC has been parading as exhibits.
“They added that the Inspector managed to call for reinforcement and that the NSCDC men started shooting sporadically during which the victims must have sustained injuries.
“The team also told the President that the NSCDC officials handcuffed the inspector with one of their men and that as of the time they fled the scene, they left behind the official and the handcuffs.”
The source said that the NNPC official told the President that the police patrol around the depot was on the request of the depot authorities who noticed a reduction in pressure, which indicated leakage.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Mba, said of the meeting: “The meeting is just one of those routine visits where the police leadership come around to brief the President on co-operational related issues. Basically that is why we are here this morning.
“Of course, that (the clash between policemen and officials of the NSCDC) is one of those issues we discussed and we also have to come in here to give the President a police perspective on that report and that is exactly what the leadership of the police has done. Giving the President a comprehensive report of what actually transpired, from police perspective and actually presenting the facts as they were.”
When asked whether there was any truth in the allegation that policemen killed the NSCDC officials during the clash, Mba responded, “For now, we have briefed the President and I think it will suffice for me to stop. The President has been properly briefed on this matter and I think with time you will get to see, and you will get to hear the exact fact of the case.”
Mba later told our correspondent that the IGP had ordered that the Homicide Section of the Force Headquarters, Abuja, should take over investigation into the case in order to ensure neutrality and that the NSCDC official in police detention be released unconditionally.
It was learnt that at the end of the one-hour meeting, President Jonathan had ordered the police chiefs to cooperate with the NSCDC in the discharge of their duties.
He had met with the leadership of the NSCDC on Wednesday.
The Lagos State Command of the NSCDC had on Wednesday alleged that policemen killed two officials of the corps, Gabriel Adaji and Innocent Akegbe.
Five other NSCDC officials were said to have sustained gunshot wounds during the incident which occurred around 3am.
The victims were said to be on duty with their colleagues when they were allegedly killed by the policemen.
The Deputy National Public Relations Officer of the corps, Mr. Sola Odumosu, said that the incident occurred while the NSCDC men were returning from a successful anti-vandal operation where vandals were arrested and were being transported back to the state headquarters of the corps.
He said the vandals made calls to their police collaborators for support as they could not overwhelm the anti-vandals team of the corps.