Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A prosecution witness on Wednesday gave graphic details of how he was hired by soldiers to free accused Taraba kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala (commonly known as ‘Wadume’) by breaking off the handcuffs on his hands.
The witness, Hafizu Bala, a welder, gave the details in his testimony before the Abuja division of the federal high court where Wadume and six others are standing trial.
Justice Binta Nyako has, meanwhile, ordered Wadume and six other defendants to be moved from the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to the National Correctional Centre, Kuje, Abuja.
Justice Nyako made the order after rejecting their bail applications.
In her ruling, Justice Nyako said there was no reason granting the defendants bail since the court has already ordered for an accelerated trial.
She also ordered that the defendants be availed access to a medical facility and allowed to have access to their lawyers while in prison.
Wadume is answering to a 13-count amended criminal charge the Federal Government preferred against him and six of his alleged accomplices that included a police Inspector, Aliyu Dadje.
Aside Wadume and Inspector Dadje, other defendants in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/30/2020, are Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor), Uba Bala (aka Uba Belu), Bashir Waziri (aka Baba Runs); Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul.
The charge against them borders on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running.
Wadume, who was arrested in 2019 over his alleged involvement in several kidnap incidents, however, escaped from custody on August 6, 2019, when gunmen attacked the team of policemen that arrested him.
Police alleged that he was assisted by soldiers attached to Battalion 93, Takum, led by one Capt Tijjani Balarabe, resulting in the death of three policemen and two civilians, with five other police officers badly injured.
Though police initially charged 19 persons to court, including 10 soldiers that were accused of complicity in the crime, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, subsequently took over the prosecution and delisted the soldiers from the amended charge.
The soldiers, who were initially charged along with Wadume had had their names removed from the charges as defendants by the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office earlier this month.
Earlier on Wednesday, two prosecution witnesses testified in the case, narrating Balarabe’s roles after helping Wadume’s escape from custody.
PW-2 Bala, who told the court that he is a resident of Ibi in Taraba State, gave his evidence in Hausa with his testimony translated in English.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr Magaji Labaran, the witness told the court that he was on August 6, 2019, engaged to cut off Wadume’s handcuffs after he escaped from police custody.
‘I am a welder and resident of Ibi in Taraba State. I came to testify about what happened,’ he said.
‘On August 6, 2019, I was sitting in my shop when a motorcycle rider came and took me to go and break padlock for him. The rider was a soldier man.
‘We went to a military camp. We went there and the road was blocked. But the motorcycle rider showed them my tools and handsaw before they allowed us to pass.
‘After we went inside, we went straight to Capt Balarabe’s house. We met Alhaji Hamisu Wadume with two military men, with other people inside.
‘I met him with handcuff in his hands and leg. When I went inside he was sitting on a chair. I told them that where he was sitting will not be comfortable for me to do the work, that he should sit on a double chair.
‘What they brought me for was to break padlock, but what I saw was a handcuff.
‘One of the military men asked him to stand for photograph. Alhaji stood and raised his hand for the picture. After which I started working on the handcuff.
‘Eventually, I was able to cut off the handcuff. After that, I did not do any other thing. I went home,’ the witness said in his testimony.
‘There is one DCO that assisted me to cut the handcuff,’ he added.
After he was discharged, another witness, Ahmad Suleiman (aka ‘Dan Ball’), narrated how Capt Balarabe called him to assist him to retrieve a rifle from one of the defendants.
Suleiman, who identified himself as a businessman and resident of Ibi in Taraba State, also testified in Hausa.
‘I came to testify about what I know of this case. On August 6, 2019, I was attending a meeting of old boys at Government Secondary School, Ibi, when Tanimu called and told me that some kidnappers came to kidnap Alhaji Hamisu Wadume.
‘After that, I told my classmates what happened. I observed that everyone became worried and eager to leave the place.
‘When I got back to my shop around 8:30 pm, one Capt Balarabe Tijjani called me and asked if I know one Baba Runs. I said “yes”. He told me that one of their rifles was with him and I should meet him and tell him to bring back their rifle.
‘After I met him, he told me that he picked it and had already returned it to where he picked it. I then called back Capt Balarabe and told him exactly what he told me.
‘He told me that I should tell Baba Runs to return back their rifle to him but Baba Runs said he was afraid and cannot return it.
‘I still told Capt Balarabe exactly what Baba Runs told me. Baba Runs then said he will give me the rifle to go and return to them.
‘Capt Balarabe said no problem that I should follow Baba Runs to collect the rifle. I then went and collected the rifle and called Capt Balarabe.
‘He came together with one other military man; they took the rifle and went away.
‘Captain told me that the rifle is their own. After then, I went back to where I do my business.’
The witness identified Baba Runs as the 5th defendant in the dock.
The court had earlier discharged the first witness, who is an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Felix Adolije, after he was cross-examined by defence lawyers Ishaka Dikko, MI Toga, Y Dandana, Amanze Amanze, Abass Ajiya, Kuzaet Magaji and FO Fagbemi.
Adolijie led the police team that had gone to arrest Wadume but were attacked in the incident that led to the loss of lives.
Meantime, trial judge Nyako adjourned further hearing on the case till next week Tuesday.
Though the trial judge declined to grant bail applications that were made by the defendants, she ordered that they should be transferred from the detention centre of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to a correctional centre.