The trial of an alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume, is to begin before the Federal High Court in Abuja today (Monday).
Justice Binta Nyako had at the June 8, 2020 proceedings, when Wadume from Taraba State and six others were arraigned on amended 13 counts of terrorism-related offences, adjourned till June 22 for commencement of trial.
The amendment of the charges by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), saw the names of alleged 10 accomplice soldiers struck off the charges.
There have been a public outrage and strident calls by lawyers, activists, and family members of some of the slain victims for the arrest and prosecution of the soldiers.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), acting on behalf of the family of one of the slain policemen, Inspector Mark Ediale, had in a letter dated June 15, 2020, and sent to the AGF’s office the same day, demanded the arrest and prosecution of the soldiers within seven days.
He threatened to take “appropriate action” should the minister fail to grant the request within the seven days period.
Falana argued that the removal of the soldiers’ names from the charges by Malami violated Section 174 of the Constitution, which gave the AGF the power to only take over cases in public interest.
The seven-day ultimatum issued by the senior lawyer will lapse today (Monday).
When asked about his next line of action on Sunday, Falana said it would be dependent on whether the soldiers would be produced in court on Monday.
He said, “We shall see whether the soldiers will be brought to court on Monday, which is when our seven-day ultimatum will lapse. That is when we will know whether the AGF office complies with our demand or not.”
The 10 soldiers attached to the 93 Battalion in Takum, Taraba State, allegedly helped Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume, to escape from the policemen taking him to Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, after he was arrested in Ibi, a part of the state, on August 6, 2019.
The troops led by Captain Tijjani Balarabe allegedly killed three policemen and two civilians, while five other police officers were injured, during the soldiers’ attack.
Those killed in the attack are Inspector Mark Ediale, 36, Sgt. Dahiru Musa, 40, Owolabi Babajide, 24, Farouk Bashir, 30, and Usman Danazumi, 44.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in February this year, slammed 16 counts bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running against Wadume, eight alleged civilian accomplices, two police officers and the 10 soldiers, who allegedly killed the policemen and took Wadume in custody.
Among the 20 defendants charged by the IGP, the 10 soldiers, including Captain Balarabe, were named as the 2nd to the 11th defendants.
But Malami, on June 8, 2020, citing “bureaucracy” involved in bringing the soldiers to court, removed their names from the charges within days of his taking over the case from the police.
Earlier on March 16, 2020, the first day the matter was mentioned before the Federal High Court in Abuja, where the charges were filed, the lawyer prosecuting the case on behalf of the IGP, Mr. Simon Lough, told the court that army authorities rebuffed the letter by the police requesting the 10 soldiers to be produced for arraignment.
Lough told Justice Nyako that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, failed to accede to the request contained in a letter by police authorities sent to him as far back as January 2020, asking for the production of the soldiers in court.
Ruling on the prosecution’s request, Justice Nyako ordered the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai or whoever custody the 2nd to the 11th defendants were held, to produce them in court for arraignment.
But when the matter came up in court on June 3, 2020, the AGF office appeared in court and announced that it had taken over the case from the IGP.
On June 8, 2020, the AGF office announced an amendment to the charges, which saw the removal of the names of the soldiers from the charges, while the rest of the defendants, including Wadume, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Despite the removal of the names of the soldiers, the amended charges captured the alleged killing of the policemen.