…We were tortured to confess, implicate soldiers — Defendants
…As court orders trial-within-trial
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday admitted into evidence six guns allegedly recovered from alleged Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume) and his six co-defendants.
The guns, comprising AK 47 rifles and a pump action were tendered through an Inspector of Police, Samuel Habila, who appeared as the fourth prosecution witness, PW-4.
Trial Justice Binta Nyako admitted the guns and marked them as Exhibits B, B1 to B5.
The defence lawyers, Ishaka Dikko, SAN, M. I. Toga, Y. Dandana, Amanze Amanze, Abass Ajiya and F. O. Fagbemi, did not challenge the admittance of the guns in evidence.
The witness told the court that Wadume has confessed during interrogation that he bought nine guns from one Babangida Musa and later sold four of them to people he gave their names as Danmaza and Halilu.
He said the guns were all registered as CPR165, except one.
“There is a white paint written on one, while one is damaged,” the witness added.
Wadume is answering to a 13-count amended criminal charge bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running.
Other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/30/2020, are a police Inspector, Aliyu Dadje, Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor), Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu), Bashir Waziri (aka Baba runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul.
Though Wadume was arrested in 2019 over his 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.
Police alleged that he was assisted by soldiers attached to Battalion 93, Takum, led by one Capt. Tijjani Balarabe.
The incident resulted in the death of three policemen and two civilians, with five other police officers badly injured.
He was re-arrested 13 days later at his hideout in Kano State.
At the resumed trial of the defendants yesterday, led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mrs. Yetunde Adeola-Cole, the witness who is a member of the Police IRT squad, narrated how Wadume was tracked and arrested in Kano after he escaped.
He said: “I recognise seven of the defendants. I am in court this morning to narrate my findings regarding the case I investigated, involving the seven of them.
“On August 6, 2019, some of our operatives travelled to Ibi on investigation activities, to arrest a kidnap kingpin, who was later identified as Hamisu Bala Wadume.
“After a successful arrest, on their way back to base they were attacked by soldiers. The soldiers shot at the moving vehicle of the operatives.
“As a result, the vehicle somersaulted into the nearby bush, killing three of the operatives and two civilians.
“The operatives’ arms were carted away. As such, myself and my team were asked to investigate the matter in order to unravel the mystery behind the attack and carting away of our arms.
“We commenced investigation and intelligence led to the arrest of Auwalu Bala, aka Omo Razor, who is the 3rd defendant, who was based in Lagos but came to Abuja to see how he could assist his brother, Hamisu Bala Wadume who was on the run.
‘’He was interviewed, during which he told us that Hamisu Bala is his younger brother and that he came from Lagos after he was told what happened.
“He said while he was in Lagos his wife told him that operatives have arrested his younger brother and that while on their way, the military attacked them and Hamisu has escaped.
“As such he got to Abuja to see how he could assist in the case. I asked him the whereabouts of his brother, Hamisu Bala and he told me his uncle, Rayyanu (7th defendant) who is based in Kano, knew his whereabouts.
How Wadume was caught
“We then tracked Rayanu down to Kano. During investigation, Auwalu told us that his wife who went for a celebration in Ibi, called to notify him of the attack and escape of Hamisu Bala.
“He told us that the only way we could get Hamisu was through his uncle in Kano. We then went to Kano where we arrested Riyyanu.
“When we arrested Riyyanu, he took us to where we arrested Hamisu Bala. Riyyanu confirmed to us that Hamisu Bala, the son of his sister, came to his house. That he received phone call from Hamisu that he was at the park and he should come and pick him.
“That was how he took his motorcycle and went to pick him from the park. He said Hamisu Bala told him that he had wounds on his leg and his private part for which he called a doctor that started treating him.
“That after the treatment, the doctor told him that the wound between his legs are bullet wound, and he never reported to anybody.
“Also, when we were in Abuja during the interview, Auwalu Bala aka Omo Razor, told us that while he was in Lagos, Hamisu Bala called him on phone that he has six AK 47 rifles kept in his house.
“Hamisu told him to call his elder brother based in Ibi to remove the rifles and keep them in a safe place, which Auwalu Bala did.
“He said that after sometime, Uba Bala called Auwalu Bala on phone and told him that he needed money for spiritual prayer over the case involving Hamisu Bala.
“Auwalu inturn called Hamisu to notify him of the request from their elder brother. That Hamisu then told Uba Bala to remove two of the guns and give them to the 6th defendant, aka Bashir, so that he can give them money for the spiritual prayer.”
Continuing his evidence, the PW-4 told the court that police operatives stormed Ibi in Taraba State where Uba Bala was arrested and four AK 47 found.
“Bashir was also arrested, during which the two guns he bought from Uba Bala were recovered. The two sets of rifles were hidden in his late mother’s house and the other in the ceiling, which were brought to Abuja for investigation.
“During investigation, it was discovered that the day police officers arrested Hamisu at Ibi, it was Baba Runs (5th defendant) that alerted the soldiers, brought a Sharon vehicle and chased the police officers.
“It was the same Baba Runs that accompanied the soldiers that opened fire on the moving vehicle of the operatives. He was with them. As such, they were the first set of people to be at the scene of the accident.
READ ALSO: Nigerian lives matter too
“Baba Runs told me that while the soldiers were having confrontation with the operatives, he stole one gun and ran away with it.
“Where he was hiding, the leader of the soldiers, Captain Balarabe, called him on phone to bring the gun he stole from the police vehicle.
“Baba Runs said he told Capt. Balarabe that the gun did not belong to him, but to the police men that had the accident. As such, Baba Runs said he told Capt. Balarabe that he would not give him the gun.”
The witness said the gun was later handed to Capt. Baralabe, after Baba Runs was persuaded by his friend, Suleiman Danball, to return it.
More so, the PW-4, told the court that the 2nd Defendant, Inspector Dadje, who was the station officer of Ibi police station in Taraba State, was the one that registered the police officers that came to arrest Wadume.
“Inspector Dadje told me that Capt. Balarabe threatened to kill him, so he tore the register that documented the arrival of the officers. After the seven Defendants were interviewed, they all made statements.
“I recorded the statements of all defendants except one that was recorded by one of my colleagues, Inspector Joseph, and Inspector Dadje recorded another by himself. In the case of the 1st defendant, one of my colleagues, ASP Bawal, also recorded his statement,” the witness added.
‘We were tortured’
Meanwhile, all the Defendants opposed the admissibility of confessional statements they made to the Police.
They told the court that the statements which the prosecution sought to tender in evidence against them were obtained through torture.
“My lord the statements were not made voluntarily by the 1st Defendant, they were made under duress. The statement sought to be tendered was written in English while my client purportedly gave his statements in Hausa,” Wadume’s lawyer contended.
Demand for trial within trial
Relying on section 29 of the Evidence Act, and on account that the statements were induced, all the defendants demanded for a trial-within-trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statements.
They noted that while the Defendants spoke in Hausa, only the English version of the statements were produced in court.
The 2nd Defendant, Inspector Dadje further alleged that he was induced to make a statement to implicate Capt. Balarabe.
He said Police promised that he would be set free once he made the statement to favour the IRT squad.
On their part, the prosecutor told the court that the statements were only written in English and not Hausa.
Queried by the court why the statement was not written in Hausa, the witness told the court that Wadume said he could not write.
“He said I should help him to write the statement that he is a secondary school dropout. But he requested that I should read it to him after I have written it.
Though Justice Nyako admitted the statements as Exhibits C, D, E, F and G, she okayed trial within trial in the matter.
Under trial within trial, the witness denied allegation that the 2nd defendant was induced to implicate anyone.
“He is my senior in the police, so I was not in any position to make any promise or to induce him to make the statement.
“Moreover, as a senior police officer of over 30 years, he should be able to know the implication of making false statement.”
He said the 2nd defendant’s statement was taken in his presence by Inspector Joseph Iloju who is a junior officer to the defendant.
He told the court that the 2nd defendant reported himself to Abuja when he was notified that he was wanted.
However, testifying for himself, Dadje said he was detained after he had agreed to demand by Police to implicate the soldiers.
“I was arrested on August 9, 2019, by a team of the IRT. It was Inspector Bitrus that said I should record the statement by myself. It was in Jalingo Taraba State.
“He said that if I record the statement in favour of IRT they are going to set me free. After I finished the recording of the statement they detained me in a cell in Jalingo. The following day I was handcuffed arm and legs and brought to Abuja.
“I was detained in CID Abuja for about five days, the sixth day, I was taken back to Jalingo.”
Testifying too, the 6th Defendant, Zubairu, who identified himself as a health worker, said he was told at the Police station to agree that Wadume gave him guns.
“I was told that if I did not agree that I was given a gun, I would be taken to a place called theatre, where they torture people.”
He said when he turned down the request, the investigating officer took him to the torture room around 1pm.
“They used two-by-four plank to hit my back, later they tied my hand to my back. They used a drum and hanged me, I was suspended mid air. They used block and kept on my back. I still have the evidence of the torture on my hands.
“One policeman hit me with a gun and I sustained injury on the head. From there, they asked me to accept that I had a gun and it is with Alhaji Hamisu, but I refused.
“They continued beating me till I felt like I would die. It went to the extent that I could not even hear what they were saying. By that time, I became unconscious.
“I later saw myself outside with one of the police officers massaging my body. After I came back to consciousness, he still asked me to accept the condition. Due to the pressure and torture, I agreed. They now wrote the statements and asked me to sign and I did”.
Justice Nyako adjourned the matter till Wednesday for continuation of hearing.