A welder from Ibi, Taraba State, Hafisu Bala, on Wednesday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, said he was engaged by Captain Tijjani Balarabe to cut the handcuffs on a kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, otherwise known as Wadume.
Wadume was allegedly freed after 10 soldiers led by Balarabe helped his escape from the custody of policemen who were conveying him from Ibi to Abuja on August 6, 2019.
The 10 soldiers attached to the 93 Battalion in Takum, Taraba State, allegedly opened fire on the police vehicle, killing three policemen and two civilians, and wounding five other police officers.
The Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, had in February charged Wadume and others including the 10 soldiers with various offences bordering on murder, kidnap, gun-running, among others.
But the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr, Abubakar Malami (SAN), removed the names of the soldiers as defendants after taking over the case from the police.
Wadume and six others –Inspector Aliyu Dadje, who was a station officer at the police headquarters in Ibi; 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 – are now being prosecuted on 13 counts bordering on kidnapping.
An Assistant Superintendent of Police, Felix Adolije, who led the team of arresting policemen, testified on Monday.
Testifying as the second prosecution witness, Bala told the court on Wednesday that he was at his shop when Balarabe sent for him on August 6, 2019.
Led in evidence by Mr Magaji Labaran, the prosecuting counsel from the AGF office, Bala said it was when he arrived at Balarabe’s place at a military camp that he found out that it was the handcuffs on Wadume that he was engaged to cut.
The witness, whose Hausa testimony was interpreted to English by a court official, said, “After we went inside (the military camp) we went to Captain Balarabe’s place. We met Alhaji Hamisu Wadume with two soldiers and other people inside. I saw him in handcuffs.
“What they told me was to break a padlock, but what I saw when I got there was handcuffs. One of the military men asked him to stand up so to take a picture for record purposes.
“Alhaji raised his hands and they took his picture. That was when I cut the handcuffs.”
Defence lawyers, including Wadume’s lawyer, Ishaku Dikko (SAN), opted not to cross-examine the witness.
Also testifying as the third prosecution witness, Ahamad Suleiman, also known as Dan Ball, told the court that he was asked by Balarabe to get across to one of Wadume’s co-defendants to return a gun.
Suleiman was initially named in the original charges, but his name was removed by the AGF office that turned him to a prosecution witness.
The witness, who also spoke in Hausa, said he was at an old students’ association meeting in Ibi on August 6, 2019 when somebody called him on the telephone to tell him that “kidnappers came to kidnap Alhaji Bala Hamisu.”
He said, “When I came back to my shop around 8 or 8.30pm, one Captain Balarabe Tijjani called me asking me if I knew one man called Baba Runs. I said ‘yes.’
“He told me that one of their rifles was with him. He said I should meet him to bring back their rifles.”
He said he telephoned Baba Runs, and he told him that he had returned it to where he picked it.”
He said on reporting back to Balarabe, the soldier insisted that Baba Runs must personally return the riffle.
Suleiman said, “I went with Baba Runs and I called Captain Balarabe.
“He came with one military man. Captain told me that it was their rifle.”
Other defence lawyers also opted not to cross-examine the witness except the counsel for Baba Runs, Mr Abbas Ajia.
Under cross-examination, the witness confirmed that he was not aware of how the rifle got to where they picked it from.
Meanwhile, the court on Wednesday rejected the bail applications filed by Wadume and the six other co-defendants.
Justice Binta Nyako ruled that they should be moved from the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the police to the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.
The judge said she saw no reason granting them bail while she was already giving the case accelerated hearing.
The court adjourned till July 7 for continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Wednesday claimed he had no intention of sparing the 10 soldiers named as accomplices in the August 6, 2019 killing of three policemen in Taraba State in their bid to free Wadume.
He gave an indication that the soldiers would still have their days in court after they must have gone through the military’s internal disciplinary process.
Malami told State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that there was no plan to shield the soldiers from prosecution.
He said, “On 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.
“The soldiers can now be charged before court martial and then for the military to release their personnel for prosecution. Ordinarily, there are in-house processes and procedures that are to be consummated. So, those that are handy for the purpose of prosecution cannot be held in custody for unduly longer period of time on the account of the absence of the military.”
Malami said it was based on this that the idea of severing the charge to allow those that were available to stand trial came up.
That, he explained, did not mean that soldiers were being shielded and cannot be prosecuted.”