- Why are soldiers involved in the Wadume saga excluded from court trial?
Why were 10 implicated soldiers left out when the trial of alleged kidnap kingpin Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume, began at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on June 8? There was no clarification of the curious exclusion, which made Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami open to criticism for alleged double standards. The failure to explain why the soldiers were excluded from the trial only fuelled public speculation in a matter that required transparency.
A report said the prosecuting counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, “cited the ‘bureaucracy’ involved in bringing the soldiers to court and the need to allow the case to begin” as reasons the soldiers who had initially been named as accomplices in the kidnapping charges were left out of the amended charges.
It is unclear what “bureaucracy” he referred to. It is noteworthy that the charges were amended after the AGF took over the case from Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu on June 3.
As a result, the number of defendants reduced from 20 to eight and the counts dropped from 16 to 13. The excluded soldiers are: 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. A policeman, ASP Aondona Iorbee, and one Ahmad Suleiman (aka Dan Ball), were also excluded.
The exclusion of the soldiers raises serious questions, considering the background of the case. Based on President Muhammadu Buhari’s order, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) had set up a Joint Investigative Panel, which included high-ranking officers from the police, army, navy, air force, DSS and the Defence Intelligence Agency, to probe the killing of three police detectives and a civilian allegedly by soldiers of the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Takum, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019.
The police operatives had arrested a wanted suspected kidnapper, Wadume, in Ibi, Taraba State, and were taking him to Jalingo, the state capital, in a bus, when soldiers at a checkpoint allegedly killed them.
The police had described the trio of Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi and Sergeant Dahiru Musa, as one of the “best and most highly trained IRT teams” in the country.
The police said the soldiers had opened fire on the officers, who were members of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of IGP Adamu, despite proof that they were on legitimate duty.
Curiously, Wadume had escaped. When he was re-arrested in Kano State two weeks later, he said the soldiers “took me to their headquarters and cut off the handcuffs from my hands and set me free.”
In a shocking confession, he revealed that he carried out his criminal activities in collaboration with soldiers and policemen, including an army captain who allegedly ordered the attack on the IRT operatives, which led to his escape.
The panel’s report was expected to clarify what happened, given the exchange of accusations and blame between the police and the army, after the horrendous incident. The arraignment, which excludes the implicated soldiers, does not clarify the incident.
Those facing trial are: Inspector Aliyu Dadje, who was a station officer at police headquarters in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State; Wadume; Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor); Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu); Bashir Waziri, (aka Baba runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho); Hafizu Bala (aka Maiwelder); and Rayyanu Abdul.
It does not help matters that the attentive public is left guessing whether the excluded soldiers will be court-martialled because they allegedly committed the offence while serving as military personnel, which may explain why they are not facing trial in a law court.
If they are to appear before a court martial, this should happen without delay, and should be publicised, so as not to give the impression that the army authorities are stalling.
justice is apparently being delayed and it implies official endorsement of a barbarous act by legal institutions like the army and the ministry of justice.
Nearly a year after the horrific happening, it is ultimately Malami’s responsibility to ensure justice in this matter because even the military is subject to constitutional government, which implies the rule of law.