The Nigerian Army and the Police have condemned their men who caused a stampede, Thursday morning in Borno Government House, when they engaged themselves in a fight over food items that were been distributed by the government of the state to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
In a joint statement, Thursday afternoon, which was signed by Col. S.B Kumapaiye, Commander, 7. Division Garrison, Operation Lafiya Dole and Aminchi Samaila Baraya, Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, said it was unbecoming of men in uniform to openly fight over bags of rice.
The statement said: “In the morning hours of today, Thursday, June 23, 2016, there was an unfortunate fracas between a soldier and a policeman around the office of the Deputy Governor over a disagreement which led to the unfortunate shooting of a policeman on his foot.
“The policeman is responding to treatment and has been visited by the theatre commander, operation Lafiya Dole, Major General LEO Irabor and the Commissioner of Police, Borno State Command, Aminchi Baraya, both of whom went together to sympathize with the policeman.
“By way of background from the Permanent Secretary, Government House and Security, Mr Ahmed Sanda, the Borno State Government had on Sunday, June 19, 2019 began the distribution of rice to internally displaced persons living in the host communities of Maiduguri and Jere metropolis. The distribution was meant to take place at 28 wards of the two local government areas unfortunately, when the exercise was launched in old Maiduguri ward for Jere local government area and at Shehuri north ward for Maiduguri on Sunday, hoodlums overpowered the committee in both instances and made away with many bags of the rice meant for the displaced persons.
“As a result, officials tasked with the distribution shifted the exercise to two premises around the office of the Deputy Governor outside the Government House in order to ensure security of the food items while beneficiaries were identified and issued with allocation notes to give them access to the distribution centers. The exercise had gone smoothly since Sunday with some wards covered, until the unfortunate development today, Thursday.
“The Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force in Maiduguri jointly condemn this unfortunate incident which was quickly brought under full control within minutes.
“The Army and the Police are jointly investigating the cause of the fracas with a view to ensuring that anyone found culpable amongst the security men are made to face disciplinary measures in line with laid down rules of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“Findings and measures taken will be brought to public knowledge as soon as possible.
“The Army and the police operating in Borno assure the general public that they will continue to collaborate and work together towards their ongoing counter insurgency and civil security efforts that have led to the emerging peace in Borno State.
“The Army and the Police commands in Borno State call on all personnel to exercise restraint in the cause of their duties and should strive to respect one another and work together to secure innocent citizens and maintain peace”.
One person was said to have been injured Thursday when soldiers and police exchanged fire as they fought over food items distributed by the government to mark the Ramadan fast.
Thousands of people had converged at the entrance of the government building in Maiduguri, forming an lengthy queue of men, women and the aged who hoped for either a 25kg bag of rice or Semovita, or both.
As the distribution started, police barred vehicles from accessing the venue, except those on special permission.
At about 11am, a Nigerian Army truck showed up, insisting on gaining access to the venue where rice and Semovita were being shared.
Suspecting that the soldiers were trying to help themselves to the handouts, police officers demanded they turn back immediately.
This led to an argument and an angry soldier allegedly opened fire, injuring a policeman in the leg, witnesses said.
The police responded and gunshots rent the air as thousands gathered scampered for safety.
It took the intervention of other senior security officers to arrest the situation from degenerating.
One of the army officers drafted to help control the crowd, identified only as Idris, a lieutenant, did not go free, as angry policemen who accused him of instigating the crisis, beat him up.
The commander of the operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Lucky Irabor, was called in by the Borno State Attorney General, Kaka Shehu Lawan, to restore order.
Calm returned after Irabor arrived alongside the state police commissioner and the director of State Security Service.
Addressing the parties in conflict, Irabor described the situation as “shameful and highly unbecoming of uniformed officers”.
“What is a bag of rice that will give you the cause to be angry? Bag of rice? It is shameful. If the world hears that it is because of bag of that made police and soldiers to be fighting, is it not shameful? Let us not behave like children: all of us have children at home. Soldiers and policemen should be seen to be matured in their dispositions at all times”.
He urged the conflicting parties to calm down.
“While everyone is clapping for good that we have been doing, let us not also do things that will make them to begin to stone us. I want you to calm your nerves, because in a family you are likely to find incidents of misunderstanding, Irabo had said.