Thursday, January 19, 2012

Police chief gets query over escape of Xmas Day bombing suspect •Zakari Biu faces investigation panel

POLICE chief Hafiz Ringim’s fate was hanging in the balance last night. The Presidency is believed to be considering his removal over the escape of a suspected mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing in Madalla, Niger State.
Ringim, who is due for retirement next month, has 24 hours to explain the dramatic escape of a suspected Boko Haram member, Kabiru Sokoto, who was arrested last Saturday in connection with the Christmas Day bombing at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State. Rights activist Femi Falana said Ringim should be punished for Sokoto’s escape.
The suspect was arrested at the Borno Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja in company of an Air Force officer. 
The suspect, who was in handcuffs, escaped on Monday from a team of policemen who took him to his home in Abaji, near Abuja, for a search. 
It was gathered that after the search, the policemen decided to take the suspect to the traditional ruler of the town (the Ona of Abaji) in a Toyota Hilux Van. 
A group of irate youths allegedly waylaid the police team. In the ensuing pandemonium, the suspect escaped, it was said.
Ringim ordered the suspension of a Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Zakari Biu, who faced a disciplinary panel yesterday.  
Police Affairs Minister Navy Capt Caleb Olubolade (rtd), who issued Ringim a query, spoke with reporters at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, describing the incident as “unfortunate”.
He said: “From the ministry, I have directed the IG to carry out full investigation and even at higher level, above that one, there will be another investigation to ascertain what led to the suspect’s escape. I have also directed that the officers involved and the personnel involved should be detained immediately.”
“The commissioner of police has been suspended. In fact, beyond that, I have advised that they should be placed under ‘close’ arrest.”
He promised that adequate measures would be put in place to ensure that such an incident does not happen again.
Explaining why the IG was queried, Olubolade said: “He is the field officer; he has the responsibility to ensure all operations regarding arrest and all that are conducted in the usual manner. If he is found to have had complicity in that, he himself will have to account for his mistake.”
Asked whether the police chief could be sacked, Olubolade replied: “Yes; anybody, including myself.”
When asked if it was an indication that there has not been a good working relationship between his ministry and the police, Olubolade said: “It is not an indication. If somebody has erred in his responsibility, the outcome of the investigation will prove that. Whatever step we are to take as a result of this neglect, we have to take it immediately.”
Asked if Sokoto’s escape was not a confirmation of the President’s claim that Boko Haram has infiltrated the government, the minister said: “I cannot confirm that statement. What is important is all steps must be taken to re arrest the suspect.”
Biu yesterday appeared before an investigation panel at the Force Headquarters.
He was asked to explain the circumstances behind the movement of the suspect to Abaji and how he escaped.
A source said: “We have started probing the escape of the suspect. That was why Biu appeared this evening before a panel at the Force Headquarters.
“We have to complete preliminary investigation to meet the 24-hour deadline given to Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim to respond to a query from the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd).
“By Thursday (today), we should be able to conclude our preliminary findings.”