IN THE ARENA
Judge Binta Nyako’s light seven-year sentence for kidnapping kingpin Hamisu Bala (Wadume) has destroyed closure for affected families, fueling speculation that the prosecution deliberately bungled the case to achieve a result predetermined and also questioned the sincerity of the Nigerian state in the war on violent crime, Ejiofor Alike and Louis Achi to write
After a three-year trial characterized by several twists and turns, Judge Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja, on July 22, 2022, found guilty and sentenced Hamisu Bala (Wadume), a leader of the kidnapping based in Abuja Taraba, to seven years’ imprisonment. The court specifically convicted the kidnapper of unlawfully escaping from lawful custody and unlawfully selling prohibited firearms.
It was curious that the judgment was delivered on July 22, 2022, but details of the court documents did not emerge until Sunday August 14. the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The judge had on the same date rendered judgment on the other defendants in the charge bearing the mention: FHC / ABJ / CR / 30/2020. The other defendants are: Aliyu Dadje (a police inspector); Auwalu Bala (aka omo razor); Uba Bala (aka Uba Delu); Bashir Waziri (aka baba short); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul.
Ten previously indicted military officers of the convicts, whose names were curiously removed from the indictment for “departmental reasons” are: Captain Tijjani Balarabe; Staff Sgt. David Isaiah; sergeant. Ibrahim Mohammad; Corporal Bartholomew Obanye; Private Mohammed Nura; Lance Corporal Okorozie Gideon; Corporal Marcus Michael; Lance Corporal Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra; Staff Sergeant, Abdulahi Adamu and Private Ebele Emmanuel.
Wadume’s journey to prison began on August 6, 2019 when a special police operations team dispatched from Abuja successfully captured him in Taraba State. He was handcuffed and being transported to Jalingo, the state capital of Taraba, when the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) police team came under intense fire from soldiers who pursued them.
Four people were then killed on the spot and several others were seriously injured. The dead included Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi and Sergeant Dahiru Musa. Jubril, a civilian, was also killed in the one-sided shootout.
Soldiers then freed Wadume in handcuffs, according to a statement by then-police spokesman CP Frank Mba, who also provided public updates on the matter.
But the army spokesman at the time, Colonel Sagir Musa, said the soldiers of Battalion 93 had received a distress call indicating that kidnappers had come to operate in their community, which led to a fierce pursuit that culminated in unfortunate murders.
Musa, who accused the police officers of refusing to stop at the military checkpoint, described them as “suspected kidnappers who turned out to be an intelligence response team… on a covert mission from Abuja” .
In a strenuous effort to bring Wadume to justice for the heinous crimes, police re-arrested him in Kano on August 20, 2019. They later released the video of his confessional statement which corroborates their claim that the soldiers who killed their men worked together. with kidnappers.
Charges have been brought against Wadume and his accomplices in the Federal High Court in Abuja. As the saying goes, the court cannot grant prayers that have not been requested. Judge Nyako therefore contented herself with rendering judgment on the basis of the charges and evidence presented to her. This brings to the fore the recurring question of whether the prosecution deliberately bungled the case to achieve a pre-determined end.
Strong suspicions of official complicity in efforts to free the suspects emerged when the indicted soldiers who were charged with Wadume were never brought to justice by military authorities for trial.
This suspicion was further fueled when the military officers had their names removed from the indictment by the office of the Federation Attorney General and Malami Minister of Justice in June 2020.
This was after a series of adjournments due to their refusal to appear in court.
Malami’s action was widely condemned by many Nigerians, including human rights lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN).
But Malami defended his decision to drop the charges against the soldiers indicted for the murder of police officers, insisting that it was not true that his office was protecting the indicted soldiers.
Briefing State House correspondents after his presentation at the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on July 1, 2020, Malami had said he was withdrawing the charges against the soldiers to allow the military to sue – fight them and conclude its internal process.
“It is important for you to note that in the context of Nigerian law, certain provisions are exclusive to the military under the Court Martial Act and then internal discipline associated with the military.
“Soldiers can now be charged by court martial. Usually, there are internal processes and procedures that must be consumed. Thus, those who are useful for the purposes of prosecution cannot be detained for an unduly longer period of time due to the absence of the army.
“That’s how the idea of separating the prosecution to allow those who are at hand to stand trial was born.
“This in no way means that the military are protected and cannot be prosecuted. But if they are to be prosecuted, they must be prosecuted within the law. What is the law here? They are military, they have to go through the internal processes first.
“There are two options, either to charge them before the court martial which is a special tribunal established by law for the trial of soldiers, or alternatively that the army after the consummation of the internal processes should consider handing them over for judgement. .”
But many were unconvinced by the minister’s explanation given that the military authorities have never shown any willingness to punish the soldiers or hand them over to the police for prosecution.
Until today, it is believed that Captain Balarabe and his band freely discharge their military duties without any court-martial trial hanging around their necks.
The fear expressed in some quarters that Wadume and his band of military men were untouchable was confirmed when Wadume’s charges were allegedly watered down to carry a lighter sentence if convicted.
It came as no surprise to many that Judge Nyako handed down light sentences to the defendants.
The pat on the back of Wadume by the Nigerian justice system puts the system on the spot, tears down the fence for the affected families and calls into question the sincerity of the Nigerian state in tackling violent crime.
The judgment may weaken the morale of valiant police officers and men who risked their lives to fight terrorism, kidnappings and cult-linked killings that have portrayed Nigeria as a failed state.
US Senator from Arizona Barry Goldwater advises national leaders: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Often people cry before they can achieve a sense of closure. But ultimately, justice is the best facilitator of closure. The huggable seven-year sentence handed down to Wadume reflects a sad human chapter in the troubling evolution of the Nigerian state.
The families of the slain police officers need closure beyond the seemingly choreographed wrist slap inflicted on Wadume. And it must be based on real justice.