Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
Trial in the kidnap case involving Bala Hamisu, aka Wadume, began at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday, with an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Felix Adolije, narrating how he and his team members came under a heavy fire from soldiers after arresting the suspect in Ibbi, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019.
The 10 soldiers attached to the 93 Battalion in Takum, Taraba State, allegedly 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.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had withdrawn charges against the 10 soldiers who were indicted for allegedly killing the three policemen.
Subsequently, of the 20 original defendants, only seven of them, including Wadume, are left by the AGF office to face trial.
Adolije, who was the leader of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector-General of the Police office that arrested Wadume in Ibbi, appeared in the case as the first prosecution witness in the trial on Monday.
Adolije, who was led in evidence by Mr Magaji Labaran, the prosecuting counsel from the AGF office, told Justice Binta Nyako that the investigation into the kidnap case was ignited by a petition sent to the Inspector-General of Police office.
He said the petition showed that the suspects, who were yet to be identified at the time, demanded 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 State, 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 State capital, on August 5, 2019.
He told the judge that he and his team members arrived at the headquarters of the Taraba State Police Command in Jalingo, on August 6, 2019 and briefed the Commissioner of Police in the state 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 they were issued a document to back their mission to the Ibbi Police Station, from where they set out to arrest Wadume.
He said, the “soft target” named Bashir, now deceased, led them to Wadume’s house in Ibbi.
Adolije said, “The pointer led us to the street where the main target lived. On getting there, he pointed to the target from inside the bus.
“I came down with Inspector Sani in our complete uniforms. I asked Sani to remain standing by the bus. I brought my identity card out. The target was with 10 boys lying down on the mat.
“I showed him my identity card. I told him we were policemen from the 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 one of my boys inside the bus to restrain him. Then we drove back to the police station.”
He said he informed the Station Officer that they had completed their mission and were heading back to Abuja.
He said, “As we were going back, we got to the last army checkpoint which we encoutered 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 our barrier to allow us to go.
“On getting to the second checkpoint mounted by some 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 mid way between the mobile policemen’s checkpoint and that of the soldiers’ ahead, I saw a Sharon bus with full light.”
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.
He said, “I saw an army Hilux with gun mounted on top, overtook the Sharon bus.
“The soldiers started firing. Then our bus 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 and started running.”
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.
He stated that it was around 7 or 7.30pm, adding that he and Emmanuel passed the night under the tree.
He said on getting to the main road between 5.30am to 6am the following day, they sought the help of a motorcyclist.
He said the motorcyclist led them to a village where he accused him and Emmanuel of being kidnappers, adding that they were given the worst beating of their lifE.
Adolije said, “As 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 a checkpoint manned by riot policemen.
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.
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.
Justice Nyako adjourned till July 1 for cross-examination of Adolije by the defence lawyers.
Before the adjournment, 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.
The judge also fixed July 1 for ruling.