The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to release 10 Army officers, who have been charged alongside an alleged Taraba State kidnapping kingpin, Bala Hamisu, also known as Wadume.
Justice Binta Nyako made the order after the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Simon Lough, told the court that the Army authorities rebuffed the letter by the police requesting the 10 defendants to be produced for arraignment.
Lough, who is prosecuting the entire 20 defendants on behalf of the Inspector-General of Police, told Justice Nyako that the police authorities had written the Chief of Army Staff asking for the soldiers as far back as January 2020 but failed to accede to the request.
He added, “Sections 89 and 159 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, empower my lord to compel the Chief of Army Staff to produce the 2nd to the 11th defendants for prosecution.
“On the basis of the provisions, we, therefore, urge my lord to issue an order to the Chief of Army Staff to produce the defendants for arraignment.”
The defence lawyers including a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ishaka Dikko, and Mathew Burkaa expressed concerns about the long detention of their clients since August 2019.
But the judge said their concerns could only be addressed after the arraignment of the defendants.
Ruling on the prosecution’s request, Justice Nyako said, “The Chief of Army Staff or whoever custody the 2nd to the 11th defendants are held, is hereby ordered to produce them on March 30, 2020, for the purpose of arraignment.”
Apart from the 10 soldiers, the other 10 defendants, including Wadume, two police officers and others, were produced in court by the police on Monday.
The said 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; and Staff Sgt. Abdullahi Adamu, and Private Ebele Emmanuel.
The other 10 defendants are Wadume, ASP Aondona Iorbee, and Insp. Aliyu Dadje; Auwalu Bala aka Omo Razor; Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu); Ahmad Suleiman (aka Dan Ball); Bashir Waziri, (aka Baba runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho); Hafizu Bala (aka Maiwelder); and Rayyanu Abdul.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had on February 3, 2020, slammed 16 counts bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running against the 20 defendants.
Wadume was allegedly assisted to escape on August 6, 2019, by soldiers attached to Battalion 93, Takum, led by Balarabe (the Captain named among the defendants).
Wadume escaped when the policemen who arrested him were attacked by the troops.
Three policemen and two civilians were killed during the incident, while five other police officers were injured.
Count one of the charge read, “That you, Alhaji Hamisu Bala, 33, aka Wadume; Capt. Ahmed Tijjani Balarabe; ASP Aondona Iorbee; Insp. Aliyu Dadje; Auwalu Bala; Uba Bala; Ahmad Suleiman; Bashir Waziri; Zubairu Abdullahi; Rayyanu Abdul and others now at large, between February and April 2019 at Takum and Ibi, Taraba State, within the jurisdiction of this court, while acting in concert, conspired together to commit felony, to wit: acts of terrorism, by attacking and kidnapping one Usman Garba, aka Mayo, at his filling station in Takum, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act 2013.”