By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, deferred further hearing on the charge against alleged Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume) and his six co-defendants, till next week, following the absence of the trial Judge, Justice Binta Nyako.
The Federal Government was billed to produce its 4th witness to testify against the defendants who are 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 the defendants were brought to court for continuation of their trial, the proceeding could not go on as one of the court clerks informed them that the case was shifted to next week Monday.
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The trial Judge was said to have gone for an emergency meeting.
It will be recalled that Justice Nyako had on July 1, denied the Defendants bail, even as she ordered their transfer from the detention centre of Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, to a Correctional Center.
Asides ordering accelerated hearing of the case, Justice Nyako directed the Director-General of Nigerian Correctional Service to grant the defendants access to medical facilities.
The ruling came on a day one of the witnesses, a welder, narrated how soldiers engaged him to break off handcuffs to free the 1st defendant, Wadume.
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.
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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.
Though Police initially charged 19 persons to court, including 10 soldiers that were accused of complicity in the crime, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, subsequently took over the prosecution and delisted the soldiers from the amended charge.
Police had complained to the court that the Nigerian Army refused to release the affected soldiers for prosecution.
The welder, Hafizu Bala, who appeared before the court as the 2nd prosecution witness, PW-2, told the court that he was on August 6, 2019, engaged by Capt. Balarabe and his men to cut off Wadume’s handcuffs after he escaped from police custody.
He said the incident took place inside a military camp at Ibi in Taraba state.
According to the welder, though the soldiers took him to the military camp to help them break a padlock, he was shocked to discover that it was Wadume’s handcuffs that they engaged him to cut off.
Soldiers that were listed as 2nd to 11th Defendants in the initial 16-count charge that was filed on February 3 by the Police but withdrawn by the AGF, Malami, SAN, were: Capt. 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.
The court had directed the authorities of the Nigerian Army to release them for trial, but the order was spurned.