Molly Kilete, Abuja

Contrary to speculations that soldiers of the Nigerian Army’s 23 Brigade who took part in the killings of five police officers from the Inspector General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) on duty in Taraba State, have been moved to Abuja, the soldiers are still in their areas of responsibility, Daily Sun has gathered.

Daily Sun also gathered that the soldiers, who are currently being interrogated by the investigative team from the Defence Headquarters and the police, had earlier been interrogated by personnel from the Directorate Of Military Intelligence (DMI) from 3 Division, Jos.

This comes just as the commander, 23 Brigade, Yola, Brigadier-General Sani Gambo Mohammed, has relocated to Ibi on the orders of the army headquarters where the incident took place.

Related: Buhari orders DHQ to probe killing of policemen by soldiers

A military source tell Daily Sun that the soldiers would only be moved to Abuja on the orders of President Muhamadu Buhari if he wants to see them, otherwise the proper thing to do is to move them to their division for further investigations.

The source, who does not wish to be mentioned in print because due to not being authorized to speak on the matter, told Daily Sun that “the soldiers have not been moved to Abuja, they are still in Taraba. They might be moved to Abuja after they finish everything which is under a probability.

“But moving them again would depend on the recommendations of the panel if they are found guilty, and if they are to be punished to have done anything. But even if they are to be punished, it has to be the division that they are under which is 3 Division, and not the army headquarters because army headquarters is not a trying unit; it is only Army Headquarters Garrison, and they are not under Army headquarters Garrison.

“They can only be tried under the division which they are and that unit is under 23 Brigade, Yola. So if there is anything, they would be charged and tried by the unit, not army headquarters.

“As we speak all the investigating teams are in Takum, Taraba State, because that is where they will take statements and do the interrogation. So if they bring the soldiers to Abuja, who are they going to interrogate in Takum?

“The team set up by the CDS have moved to Takum, and the brigade commander just left Takum yesterday and all of them are there, including the one set up by the police. They will collect statements from those soldiers,  including the Commanding Officer. All the people that are supposed to be interrogated are based in Takum, so there is no way those soldiers could have been brought to Abuja, it is not possible.

“The army headquarters does not have any business moving those soldiers to Abuja, except if there is a special request because of the nature of the incident. The Commander-in-Chief, may want to see them, but I doubt if that can happen.”

Meanwhile the army headquarters is said to be making plans to commence the rotation of troops, especially those in Taraba State, as a result of the incident. It was gathered that the army investigative team is not taking the allegations made by the police over the disappearance of the suspected kidnap kingpin, who before now was a fish trader.

Daily Sun learnt that the suspect, who was rescued by the soldiers, was taken to a house where he had his hand and leg cuffs loosened and set free.

It was also gathered that while the captain, who is the head of the unit at Ibi, had a very good relationship with Wadume, the kidnap kingpin, he may have acted on orders from his superiors who are yet to be identified, according to confessional statements from soldiers so far interrogated on the matter.

It was gathered that the investigating panel is working round the clock to unravel the mystery surrounding the brutal murder even though retired police officers have raised the fears that the team, comprising mostly of military officers and just one from the police, may be biased with their final report.

However, the killings have continued to generate controversy as some army officers who spoke to Daily Sun said that the Commanding Officer ought to have been briefed about the IRT operation because of the security situation in the area where arms are easily transported by militia groups.

“If you know the security situation in Ibi, Wukari and Takum, you know they have been fighting for a very long time now and people move arms within that area, so for you to see somebody with arms in that area, if not fully identified, then it becomes another thing,” the source said.

Continuing, the source said, “if they really had identified themselves what the soldiers would have done was to have arrested them and taken them to their commander and commence investigation.”

However, the issue, which has been the topic of discussion among military personnel, has seen blame placed on the Army’s public relations department for the blunder over the statement it issued on the matter.

It was gathered that the authorities were not properly briefed before it gave the approval for the statement which has been condemned by Nigerians who are now beginning to speculate on reasons why the years long counterinsurgency operations in the northeast has not ended.

One source said, “It is bad to bring in third party and blaming people when you have killed human beings. It doesn’t work like that.”

It was gathered that the investigation team who went to the scene of the incident from Jalingo met over fifteen check points, causing them to question how the IRT team could have easily scaled through the heavily guarded post without being noticed.

Apart from that, the team also discovered that the checkpoints are so close to each other on the very narrow road that is laden with heavy wood and other stopping equipment, that is not possible for anyone to have charged through the narrow road without stopping for proper identification and passage.

The source said the only way to charge through the check points without being stopped by the soldiers is by helicopter.

The Divisional Police Officer, who has been interrogated by the DHQ, team told his interrogators that he was aware of the IRT team in the area as they came to his station to do proper documentation.

Related: Taraba killings: Bodies of policemen killed by soldiers arrive Abuja, to be buried after autopsy