As court orders accused soldiers produced June 8
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, yesterday told the Federal High Court in Abuja that he has taken over the prosecution of Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume) and his alleged 19 accomplices, from the Nigeria Police Force.
To that effect, the AGF, who was represented by a prosecutor from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Labaran Magaji, informed the court that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has already transferred the case-file to him. It will be recalled that Wadume was arrested in 2019 over alleged involvement in several kidnap incidents.
He, however, escaped from custody on August 6, 2019, when gunmen attacked the team of policemen that arrested him, even as the Police alleged that he was assisted by Soldiers attached to Battalion 93, Takum, led by one Capt. Balarabe.
The incident resulted in the death of three policemen and two civilians, with five other police officers badly injured.
Wadume was, however, re-arrested 13 days later in his hideout in Kano State.
The Police had on February 3, filed a 16-count charge bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running, against him and 19 others that comprised of 10 soldiers. However, since the charge was lodged, no progress had been made in the matter.
Police had also on March 16 when the matter was fixed for arraignment, alleged that the Nigerian Army refused to release the accused soldiers who were cited in the charge sheet as 2nd to 11th Defendants. Police prosecutor, Mr. Simon Lough, told the court that they were unable to get access to the soldiers who he said were currently in the custody of the Nigerian Army, decrying that efforts to retrieve them for trial proved abortive.
Relying on sections 87 and 159 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA) 2015, the Police lawyer prayed the court to intervene and order the Army to produce the fingered soldiers for trial, a request that was acceded to by trial Justice Binta Nyako.
Wadume’s alleged military accomplices that Police urged the court to compel the Nigerian Army to release for prosecution, are: Captain Tijjani Balarabe, Staff Sgt. David Isaiah; Sgt. Ibrahim Mohammed; Corporal Bartholomew Obanye; Private Mohammed Nura; Lance Corporal Okorozie Gideon; Corporal Markus Michael; L/Corporal Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra; Staff Sgt. Abdullahi Adamu and Private Ebele Emmanuel. They are among 19 persons Police listed as defendants in the 16-count criminal charge pending before the court.
The other defendants are: ASP Aondona Iorbee and Insp. Aliyu Dadje and Auwalu Bala, aka Omo Razor, Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu); Ahmad Suleiman (aka Dan Ball); Bashir Waziri, (aka Baba runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho); Hafizu Bala (aka Maiwelder); and Rayyanu Abdul.
Though Justice Nyako ordered the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai and the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, or anybody in whose custody the accused soldiers are, to either release them to Police or produce them in court on March 30 for arraignment, however, at the resumed proceeding on Wednesday, none of the accused soldiers was present in court. The lawyer from AGF’s office, Magaji, while applying for an adjournment, assured the court that they would be produced on the next date.
He said: “The AGF office applied to take over the prosecution of the criminal charge. We were handed over the file yesterday (Tuesday). “The case has about 20 defendants, but only six defendants are present in court.
“In the circumstances, we shall be asking for a short adjournment for the purpose of bringing all the suspects named in the charge.
“The prosecution shall do the needful to ensure that the case takes off immediately.” None of the defendants in court on Wednesday opposed the adjournment request. Consequently, Justice Nyako adjourned the matter till June 8.
Count one of the charge read: “That you, Alhaji Hamisu Bala, 33, aka Wadume; Capt. Ahmed Tijjani Balarabe; ASP Aondona Iorbee; Insp. Aliyu Dadje; Auwalu Bala; Uba Bala; Ahmad Suleiman; Bashir Waziri; Zubairu Abdullahi; Rayyanu Abdul and others now at large, between February and April 2019 at Takum and Ibi, Taraba State, within the jurisdiction of this court, while acting in concert, conspired together to commit felony, to wit: acts of terrorism, by attacking and kidnapping one Usman Garba, aka Mayo, at his filling station in Takum, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act 2013.”
The defendants were also accused of possessing six AK-47 rifles and dealing in prohibited firearms contrary to Section 27 (1)(a)(I) and (1)(b)(iii) of the Firearms Act Cap F28, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
Besides, Police, said it would rely on testimonies of 29 eyewitnesses, some of whom would testify on how one Usman Garba was kidnapped on February 16, 2019 at Takum by Wadume and his gang. They allegedly demanded a N200million ransom and killed the victim despite receiving N106.3m.
According to the prosecution, “DCP Abba Kyari, CSP Baba Khali, ASP Abdulrahman Mohammed, ASP Bawa James, Insps Habila Samuel and Ilarju Joseph are the investigating police officers in this case; they will testify about their findings in the course of the investigation and will tender exhibits and documents”.