A policeman who survived the attack on the Intelligence Response Team by troops on the orders of their commander, Capt Tijjani Balarabe, says the soldiers fired several rounds at their vehicle after it crashed.
Insp Mathias Abba, in his testimony to the Joint Investigation Panel which probed the killing of three policemen and two civilians during the August 6, 2019 attack in Taraba State, noted that the slain cops begged for their lives, but the soldiers did not spare them.
According to him, the troops cut down the deceased with a General Multipurpose Machine Gun, insisting that none of the IRT personnel died when their vehicle crashed.
The men, he stressed, were killed by “rapid (gun) fire from the soldiers.”
An autopsy carried out on the murdered policemen and their civilian assistants had attributed the cause of death to long-range rifle shots to the head, body, and leg, apart from the superficial injuries sustained from the crash.
Abba in his statement explained that they identified themselves at two military checkpoints and a police checkpoint while on their way to Ibbi to arrest a kidnap suspect, Hamisu Bala (Wadume), who was rescued by the troops after the attack on the police.
Abba who sustained a bullet wound on his right leg stated, “On getting to the last military checkpoint, we heard firing and the driver managed to pass but the firing continued. When I looked back, a Toyota picnic with the full headlight and a Hilux van were coming after us at full speed.
“When the speed from the Toyota was not enough because it was loaded with soldiers, the army patrol van overtook the Toyota and we heard the rapid fire of the GPMG mounted on the van.
“Our driver wanted to stop, but everyone was confused, so the (gun) fire from the GPMG caused our vehicle to somersault several times but the military kept firing at our vehicle despite the fact that our vehicle was already down.”
Narrating how he survived the hail of bullets, the inspector said he crawled to a nearby bush just as his colleagues also made efforts to come out of the crashed bus.
“Everybody was alive, nobody died in the accident but while I was watching, some of my men came out of the bus and escaped. The soldiers brought out the rest from the vehicle and fired shots at them at close range.
“Before they shot them, some of them (policemen) were begging them (soldiers) not to kill them, but the soldiers turned deaf ears and murdered them all.
“After killing them, one Capt Balarabe moved the suspected kidnapper (Wadume) in handcuffs into a military patrol vehicle and drove him away.”
As they were evacuating the dead, Abah said a soldier suggested that they should search the bush for the escaped policemen, adding that the troops discovered his hideout.
Police investigations had indicted 10 soldiers for the attack and murder of three policemen and two civilians. They include Capt Balarabe; Staff Sgt David Isaiah; Sgt Ibrahim Mohammed; Corporal Bartholomew Obanye; Private Mohammed Nura; Lance Corporal Okorozie Gideon; Corporal Markus Michael; L/Corporal Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra; Staff Sgt Abdullahi Adamu, and Private Ebele Emmanuel.
The military authorities had ignored the police demand for the prosecution of the soldiers who were attached to 93 Battalion, Taraba State.