The trial of Taraba kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume, on Monday, began at the Federal High Court, Abuja, before Justice Binta Nyako.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Wadume, alongside six other defenants, was, on June 8, arraigned on 13 counts bordering on terrorism.
The other defendants are: Insp. Aliyu Dadje, Auwalu Bala, Uba Bala, Bashir Waziri, Zubairu Abdullahi and Rayyanu Abdul.
NAN recalls that the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, took over the matter from the police on June 3.
Although 10 soldiers were initially slated in the charges, their names were later removed in the case.
At the commencement of the trial, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Felix Adolije, told the court how he and his team members were attacked by the soldiers after the arrest of Wadume on August 6, 2019.
NAN recalls that the 10 soldiers attached to the 93 Battalion in Takum in Taraba were alleged to have helped Wadume to escape from the policemen.
The troops led by Captain Tijjani Balarabe allegedly killed three policemen and two civilians, while five other police officers were injured, during the soldiers’ attack.
Mr Adolije, who was the leader of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector-General of the Police office that arrested Wadume in Ibbi, Taraba, appeared in the case as the first prosecution witness in the trial on Monday.
In his testimony, Mr Adolije said, “I thank the Almighty God for being alive and stand before you this morning.”
The officer, who was led in evidence by Magaji Labaran, prosecuting counsel from the AGF office, told the judge how the investigation into the kidnap case was ignited by a petition sent to the IGP office.
He said the petition showed that the suspects, who were yet to be identified at the time, were demanding N200m ransom.
He said the analysis of four phone numbers with which the suspects were making the demand led his team to “a soft target” in Taraba, Bashir, who in turn led them to Wadume in Ibbi on August 6, 2019.
He said his team comprising six IRT officers departed Abuja for Jalingo, the Taraba capital, on August 5, 2019.
He told the judge how he and his team members arrived the headquarters of the Taraba Command in Jalingo on August 6, 2019 to brief the Commissioner of Police about their mission.
According to him, the team was given an introduction letter to the Area Command in Wukare, where their arrival was documented and were also issued document to back their mission to Ibbi Police Station, from where they would set out to arrest Wadume.
He said, the “soft target” named Bashir, now deceased, led them to Wadume’s house in Ibbi, Taraba.
“The pointer was with us and he led us to the street where the main target lived.
“On getting there, he pointed to the main target from inside the bus.
“So I came down with Inspector Sani, in our complete uniforms without cap and jacket.
“I asked Sani to remain standing by the bus. I brought my identity card out. I realised that the target was with 10 boys lying down on the mat.
“I showed him my identity card. I told him we were policemen from IRT in Abuja.
“I told him that there was a case we were investigating and that his attention was needed in Abuja.
“Neither he nor any of his boys asked any question. Quietly, he got up and followed me to our bus.
“I asked him to follow us and he followed us. There was no argument between us and anybody. We entered the bus.
“I asked one of my boys inside the bus to restrain him. Then we drove back to the police station,” he narrated.
He said he informed the station officer that they had completed their mission and was heading back to Abuja.
He said unknown to them, the soldiers at the last of the three checkpoints they encountered while arriving the town had been alerted about their mission.
“As we were going back, we got to the last army checkpoint which we encountered when we were coming in. The checkpoint was the first as we were going out.
“They (the soldiers) asked us to stop. They saw us in uniform. Then, one of the soldiers asked us where we were coming from. We told him we were the ones whom they passed about 30 minutes earlier.
“Then one of them asked us if we did not know that the person in our vehicle was a very influential person in the town? I already alighted when he asked me that question.
“I said I didn’t know who even told him that we had made an arrest, and I told him, ‘please we are still going far, allow us to go.
“Then he reluctantly removed the barrier to allow us to go.
“On getting to the second checkpoint mounted by the mobile policemen, they only asked us if we were through. And we said yes.
“Then we headed towards the last one mounted by soldiers. As we were in between the mobile policemen’s checkpoint and that of the soldiers’ ahead, I saw a Sharon bus with full light,” he remarked.
He said the soldiers’ at the checkpoint removed the barrier without asking any question, adding that their vehicle had barely passed when they started hearing gunshots.
According to him, I saw an army Hilux with gun mounted on top, overtook the Sharon bus.
“The soldiers started firing. Then our bus started staggering and somersaulted three times. I was seated with the driver in the front. He fell to my side. Then I struggled, by the grace of God, and came out of the vehicle.
“I left my AK-47 and pistol inside the vehicle. I started running. There were heaps of yam on the other side of the road,” he alleged.
He said he managed to scamper to a tree for safety and quickly removed his uniform.
He said his colleague, Sergeant Emmanuel, whom he came across around the place also removed his uniform.
According to him, it was around 7 or 7.30pm.
He said he and Emmanuel passed the night under the tree.
He said they found their way to the main road between 5.30am to 6am the following day.
He said on getting to the main road, they sought the help of a motorcyclist to lead them to the nearest village.
He said the motorcyclist led them to another round of trouble in the village where he said he and Emmanuel were branded as kidnappers and given the worst beating of their life.
Mr Adolije said, “Immediately we got to the village, he (the motorcyclist) started speaking their language.
“All their youths and men started coming towards us with cutlasses saying we were the kidnappers of yesterday.
“That was where I received the highest beating of my life. When they were beating me, I held on to my identity card telling them that we were policemen from Abuja.”
He said the youth leader in the village rescued him and his colleague from the mob and took them to a mobile policemen spot.
“The mobile policemen called the Area Command which brought a patrol vehicle and conveyed us to General Hospital Wukare,” he said.
Asked where Wadume was after the attack, Adolije said, “He was with us in the bus before the attack. When the bus somersaulted and everybody ran for his dear life, I did not know his position at that time.”
He identified Wadume in the dock.
Mr Wadume who was limping when he appeared in court, was allowed to sit down in the dock, after his lawyer sought permission for him to be seated on the grounds of ill-health.
The defence lawyers, Ishaka Dikko, SAN; M. I Toga, Abass Ajiya, Kuzaet Magaji and F. O Fagbemi moved their clients’ bail application which was opposed by the prosecution.
Justice Nyako, therefore, adjourned until July 1 for cross-examination of Mr Adolije by defense lawyers.
The judge also fixed July 1 for ruling.