….As IG removes Kogi CP over suspects’ escape from custody***
Gunmen believed to be cattle thieves killed 15 herders in the latest bout of violence in northern Nigeria’s herding communities, police and a local official said Thursday.
“Armed bandits attacked Bawon-Daji village yesterday and killed 15 people,” the police spokesman for Zamfara state, Muhammad Shehu, told AFP.
His account was corroborated by a senior local government official, Gado Anka.
Anka told AFP motorcycle-riding gunmen stormed the remote village in Anka district around 1:00 pm (1200GMT), shooting dead 12 residents before fleeing to a hideout in the bush.
“They returned two hours later and attacked mourners during the funeral of the victims in the cemetery, killing three more and injuring several others,” he said.
Rural communuties in the agrarian state are under siege from gangs who kill, loot and torching homes.
This has prompted villages to form vigilante groups — which in turn are often accused of extra-judicial killings of suspected cattle thieves, prompting deadly reprisals by the gangs.
It was not clear if the latest killings were as a result of reprisals.
In February, dozens of people were killed when gunmen opened fire on traders and villagers at Birane, in the Zurmi area of the state.
Meanwhile, Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris has ordered the removal of Kogi State Police Commissioner Ali Janga, following yesterday’s escape of six suspects from custody.
Idris asked the Commissioner of Police, Federal Operations, Force Headquarters, Abuja, Esa Sunday Ogbu, to proceed and take over as the state’s new police chief.
He also redeployed the Commander, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, the Divisional Police Officer ‘A’ Division, Lokoja and other police officers implicated in the escape for negligence, dereliction of duty and gross misconduct.
The police, in a statement signed yesterday by Force spokesman ACP Jimoh Moshood, said the IG was dissatisfied with the circumstances surrounding the escape of the six suspects, including two principal suspects, Kabiru Seidu (a.k.a Osama) and Nuhu Salisu (Small), who indicted Senator Dino Melaye and Mohammed Audu in a case of conspiracy and unlawful possession of prohibited firearm.
The case already filed at the Federal High Court, Lokoja, was expected to come up in court yesterday.
Moshood explained that the policemen on duty when the suspects escaped were facing serious disciplinary action.
The removed Kogi State police commissioner, at a news conference in Lokoja yesterday, said the two suspects named Melaye as their arms supplier.
Janga said the two suspects escaped at 3.21a.m. from the ‘A’ Police Division in Lokoja, where they were kept.
According to the commissioner, both Seidu and Salisu escaped when they were supposed to be arraigned before a Lokoja Federal High Court, alongside Melaye and Alhaji Mohammed Audu, who was also named by the suspects as one of their sponsors.
Janga identified Aliyu Isa, Adams Suleiman, Emmanuel Audu and Musa Mohammed as four other suspects that escaped from the custody.
The police commissioner said 13 policemen, comprising five operatives of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and eight conventional policemen on duty when the incident happened have been detained for interrogation.
“The 13 police officers, who were on duty when the incident occurred, were defaulted and detained for interrogation,” he said.
Janga added that the names of the six fleeing suspects and that of Melaye as well as Mohammed Audu have been declared wanted and sent for watch listing by the INTERPOL for arrest anywhere they are found.
He appealed to residents to assist the police with useful information on the whereabouts of the suspects by reporting to the nearest police station.
The police enjoined members of the public to about go their lawful duty as the command was in full control of the situation and determined to provide adequate security for live and property
But Melaye gave the Inspector-General a 48-hour ultimatum to produce the two suspects involved in his case.
He threatened to sue Idris for “mental assault” should he fail to produce the two suspects.
He made this statement in a point of order he raised at the Senate yesterday, stating that the suspects are “presumed innocent until proven guilty and they also have right to life”.
Punch with additional report from Nation