OVER 10 months after he was arrested, the Federal Government yesterday arraigned alleged Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (aka Wadume), before the Federal High Court in Abuja on a 13-count amended criminal charge. Wadume was docked alongside six of his alleged accomplices, including a police Inspector, Aliyu Dadje.
Other defendants in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/30/2020, which was entered before the court on June 5 by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation are Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor), Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu), Bashir Waziri (aka Baba runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul. It was alleged that the Inspector, Dadje, as the station officer of Ibi Divisional Police Headquarters at Ibi LGA Taraba state, being aware that an offence of terrorism had been committed by one Capt Ahmed Tuanl Balarabe and his team, in that they attacked and killed three of the IGP IRT team and two civilians that came to arrest Wadume, tampered with the entry made by the leader of the IGP IRT team, Asp Felix Adolije, by tearing off the entry page to cover up for Capt. Balarabe and his team. According to the charge, the 3rd and 4th defendants (Auwalu Bala and Uba Bala), who are Wadume’s brothers, withheld information about his whereabouts when he was wanted by the police. Uba was equally alleged to have assisted him to sell guns to raise money. While Abdullahi was arrested by the Police for being in possession of two AK-47 rifles he claimed belonged to Wadume, the 5th defendant, Abdul was said to be the one that harbored Wadume in his house after he escaped from custody. All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge that was read to them before trial Justice, Binta Nyako. Earlier, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, informed the court that the charge was amended to remove names of some persons that were hitherto mentioned as defendants in the previous charge that was lodged by the Nigerian Police Force. He said the former defendants were severed from the charge to pave way for expeditious trial of the case.
It will be recalled that among those that were initially listed in the previous 16-count terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running charge Police filed before the court on February 3, included 10 soldiers. Police subsequently blamed its inability to arraign Wadume and the 19 other defendants on alleged refusal of Nigerian Army to release the accused soldiers listed as the 2nd to 11th Defendants. Following an application by Police prosecutor, Mr. Simon Lough, the trial Judge ordered that the accused soldiers – 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 – should be produced before the court for trial. However, at the resumed proceedings on the matter last Wednesday, the AGF notified the court that he has taken over the prosecution of the matter from the police. Speaking to newsmen yesterday, the prosecuting counsel from the office of the AGF, Mr. Labaran, said they needed to drop the names of the soldiers to be able to make progress in the matter, adding that they would be charged “as soon as practicable.” Labaran equally applied for accelerated trial of the seven defendants that were arraigned on Monday. Three others – ASP Aondona Iorbee, Ahmad Suleiman (aka Dan Ball) and Hafizu Bala (aka Maiwelder) – whose names appeared as defendants in the initial charge, were also not reflected in the amended charge. Trial Justice Nyako adjourned the case till June 22, even as the defendants, through their various lawyers led by T. D. Dangana and Abbas Ajia, indicated their intention to file applications for bail, pending the determination of the case against them. Justice Nyako ordered that the defendants should remain in custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja. It will be recalled that 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, 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 re-arrested 13 days later in his hideout in Kano State. Some of the charges against him, read: “That you Alhaji Hamisu Bala (aka Wadume) (M) of lbi LGA Taraba State, between February and April 2019, at Takum and Ibi LGA Taraba State within the jurisdlction of this honourable court, knowingly seized and detained one Usman Garba (aka Mayo) at his filling station in Takum, demanded and collected a ransom of one hundred and six million naira (N106, 000,000.00) before he was released. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013. “That you Alhaji Hamisu Bala (aka Wadume) of lbi LGA Taraba State on or about the 6th August 2019 in lbi LGA Taraba State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court having been lawfully arrested by the Police from the IGP IRT in connection to the kidnap of one Usman Garba (aka Mayo) escaped from lawful custody. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 19(3) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013. “That you Alhaji Hamisu Bala (aka Wadume) of Ibi LGA Taraba State between January 2018 and September 2019 in lbi LGA Taraba State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, dealt 1n prohibited firearms without license, in that you bought nine AK-47 rifles from one Babangida Musa and later sold four of the AK-47 RINGS to one Yakubu Danmaza and Halilu Ibrahim and withheld five (5) of the AK-47 Rifles which were recovered from you by the Police. You thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27 (1)(b)(iii) of the Firearms Act 2004.’’