Kidnap kingpin Wadume denied bail, AGF accused of shielding army co-conspirators

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The trial of notorious Taraba kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala, aka Wadume, and six co-defendants will resume next Tuesday, July 7, 2020 after Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday denied bail in the terrorism and kidnapping charges brought against them by the federal government.

 

The bail rejection came as the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), denied allegations that he was shielding 10 soldiers accused of murder alongside Wadume, from prosecution. Malami, who has been accused of shielding the soldiers from prosecution by his perceived refusal to charge them to court along with Wadume, said the office of the AGF had a responsibility to ensure that the judicial process is not abused.

 

Ruling on the bail application, Justice Nyako denied the applicants bail because she “saw no reason to grant them bail” having given their trial accelerated hearing. Wadume is facing a 16-count charge bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and gun-running along with Captain Tijjani Balarabe and 18 others. Those accused along with Wadume are: 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; Private Ebele Emmanuel; ASP Aondona Iorbee and Inspector Aliyu Dadje and Auwalu Bala, aka Omo Razor.

 

Other defendants are: Uba Bala (aka Uba Delu), Bashir Wazlri (aka Baba runs), Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul. They have all pleaded not guilty to all the charges and their lawyers accordingly moved their bail applications; which was denied by the court.

 

The judge however ordered that the defendants be moved from the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police to the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja. Justice Nyako also ordered that the authorities of the Kuje correctional centre allow the defendants access to medical facilities and their lawyers while in their custody.

 

Wadume was first arrested in Ibi, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019, by policemen from the Intelligence Response Team of the Office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). He was arrested in connection with a kidnap case in which he was alleged to have demanded N106 million as ransom. While he was being transferred from Ibi to Abuja, some soldiers, led by Captain Tijani Balarabe ambushed and attacked the police convoy, killing three police officers and freeing Wadume from custody.

Wadume was later re-arrested and charged alongside six others in June 2020. The soldiers who were initially charged with Wadume had their names removed from the charge sheet as defendants by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which took over the case from the police. The AGF explained that he was waiting for the completion of the military’s in-house disciplinary process on the accused soldiers in accordance with constitutional stipulations before their trials could begin. He said the constitution accords certain exclusive rights to the military and hence, members of the armed forces could not be charged to court the way civilians are charged, but in accordance with stipulations relating to their trial.

 

The AGF further explained that such rights accorded the military by the constitution show that members of the armed forces could only be tried in two ways, which he enumerated as court martial or a deliberate decision by the military to hand them over to civil authorities for trial in conventional courts.

 

He said: “Now, coming to the issue of the soldiers, it is important for you to note that within the context of the Nigerian law, there are certain provisions that are exclusive to the military within the context of law on court martial and then the internal discipline associated with the military.

 

“What is the law here? They are military personnel. First, they are to go through the in-house processes. There are two options – either to charge them before the court martial which is a special court established by law for the trial of soldiers or in the alternative for the military after consummation of the in-house processes should consider handing them over for trial. On Wadume’s case, I will like you to note for the record that it’s the office of the attorney-general of the federation that is constitutionally established to consider an interest of justice, public interest and ensure the absence of abuse in the judicial process,” Malami added.