Unless Nigerians collectively demand justice from the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the soldiers who killed the gallant members of the Inspector General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, IRT, sent to arrest notorious suspected kidnapper and murderer, Alhaji Hamisu Bala (alias Wadume), may escape justice.
Wadume had been terrorising the Taraba and Adamawa axis with kidnapping for ransom. In one celebrated episode, Wadume kidnapped a businessman, Alhaji Usman Shehu, collected N106.3 million ransom and still killed him because the family could not raise the extra N20 million he demanded. All efforts to apprehend him failed because he was being protected by some rogue military personnel.
On 6 August 2019, the IGP dispatched the IRT which arrested Wadume. But on their way to the Taraba Police Command Headquarters Jalingo, they were intercepted by soldiers from the 93 Battalion of the Nigeria Army led by Captain Tijani Balarabe and massacred.
Wadume was freed. Those killed were Inspector Mark Ediale, 36; Sgt. Dahiru Musa, 40; Owolabi Babajide, 24 and civilians; Farouk Bashir, 30 and Usman Dan Azumi, 44 Following a national outrage, the police began the prosecution of the suspects which consisted of Wadume and his gang as well as the military suspects: Capt. T. Balarabe; Staff Sgts. David Isaiah and Abdullahi Adamu; Sgt. Ibrahim Mohammed; Cpl. Bartholomew Obanye; Pvts. Mohammed Nura and Ebele Emmanuel; Lance Cpls. Okorozie Gideon and Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagrah; and two police superior officers, ASP Aondona Iorbee and Ahmad Suleiman.
Because of difficulties the police were experiencing in getting the soldiers arraigned, presiding Justice Binta Nyako on 6 March 2020 ordered the Chief of Army Staff to produce the military suspects in court.
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But shockingly, the AGF, Malami, took over the case from the police on 3 June 2020, and in doing so, dropped the names of the soldiers. Malami had reportedly cited the “bureaucracy” involved in bringing the soldiers to court, adding that he did not want it to hamper the trial of Wadume’s gang.
We call on Malami to immediately restore the names of the soldiers on the charge sheet. The law holds that when soldiers commit crimes they must be tried in normal courts.
Court martials are only for military offences. The killing of our highly prized law enforcement officers in cold blood in the line of duty by the soldiers who freed a dangerous criminal is a crime of particular public interest. Nigerians want these men to be brought to justice.
If they are allowed to go scot-free, it will send the wrong signals that soldiers can protect criminals with the backing of the nation’s Chief Law Officer. Malami must also explain his strange action to Nigerians.
We are waiting to hear from him. We want justice for the slain police officers and civilians.