The Good Governance and Leadership Project in Nigeria (GGLPN) has accused the police of embarking on media trial in the killing of intelligence response team (IRT) officers.

In compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, chief of defence staff, constituted a 7-man joint investigation panel to unravel the circumstances that led to the unfortunate Wukari incident.

The panel, headed by IT Olaiya, a rear admiral, has a representative each from the Nigerian army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Service and the National Intelligence Agency.

GGLPN accused the police of leaking the progress being made in the investigation to the media.

In a statement signed by Whyte Odili, president of the group, said such step can truncate the exercise in a way that the eventual culprits may evade justice.

Read full statement below:

Gentlemen of the press, the Good Governance and Leadership Project in Nigeria (GGLPN) is among organizations that were pleased when Mr. President ordered an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of three operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Nigeria Police Force following a mix up with troops manning checkpoints on the Ibi-Jalingo Expressway, Taraba State.

We noted the interventions made by specific individuals and organizations that sued for a ceasefire to the media war that erupted between the Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Army. GGLPN refrained from joining these calls for a ceasefire at that time because we believe that that the point has been made by all those that had intervened. The media war between two government agencies, albeit over a tragic incident, presents the country as divided and is therefore uncalled for.

It is disconcerting that the seeming unilateral cessation of hostile communication on the part of the Nigeria Police Force against the Nigerian Army has again resumed. Perhaps worse than the first phase of media war, the nature of activities being implemented by the Nigerian Police or by its proxies are detrimental to the country in the long term.

Our assertion in this regard is informed by the fact that the setting up of an investigation panel at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, should have commanded the highest level of consideration from all parties so that the probe panel will be allowed to do its work. This is necessary to ensure objectivity.

However, what we have seen is a situation where the progress being made in the investigation of the case is being leaked to the media. Our assessment is that this leakage of information is being done to create unnecessary sensationalism around the case. It has created a situation where what is a national tragedy is being serialized like a movie show or a crime novel. This approach to the issue trivializes the magnitude of loss the country has suffered while detracting from the focus needed on the part of the investigation panel to unravel what transpired.

The dangers associated with the media trial being conducted by the Nigerian Police are all too glaring. Understandably, the police are used to media trials of its suspects given the way it usually parades suspects without ever securing convictions against them. Continuing with the current trend of media trial is therefore likely to truncate the investigation into the incident in a way that persons that will eventually be indicted may be able to evade justice.

This is a situation we will not like to see because it is crucial that anyone found culpable in the Taraba killings is brought to justice, something that will not happen if the entire process is reduced into a charade or roadshow.

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