The federal government yesterday finally arraigned a suspected kidnap kingpin in Taraba State, Hamisu Bala, popularly known as Wadume, before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on charges of terrorism.
The arraignment came barely few days after the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice took over prosecution of the case from the police.
Wadume was arrested by the police in August last year for alleged kidnapping.
His arrest, earlier, had led to the killing of three policemen and a civilian in Taraba State with some military officers accused of aiding him.
Attempts by the police to arraign the defendants since February had not been successful owing to the alleged refusal of the military authorities to release other defendants who are military personnel in the 16-count criminal charge.
However, the AGF finally succeeded yesterday after amending the charges to 13 and bordering on “terrorism, kidnapping, continual to detain and collection of a ransom of N106million.”
The AGF also reduced the defendants to seven from the initial 20.
Those arraigned alongside Wadume include: (a police inspector), Aliyu Dadje, Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor), Uba Bala (aka Uba Delu) Bashir Wazlri (aka Baba Runs), Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul.
Left out were the suspected military accomplices, led by Captain Tijani Balarabe, attached to the 93 Battalion, Takum, who were accused of freeing Wadume and allegedly killed some members of the police team who had arrested him.
Apart from Balarabe, other soldiers accused of being Wadume’s associates were David Isaiah, a staff sergeant; Ibrahim Mohammed, a sergeant; Bartholomew Obanye, a corporal; Mohammed Nura, a private; Okorozie Gideon, a lance corporal; Markus Michael and Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra, both lance corporals; Abdullahi Adamu, a staff sergeant and Ebele Emmanuel, a staff sergeant.
At the arraignment yesterday, the accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges read to them following which Wadume’s lawyer, Mr. T. Dangana, informed the court that he has a pending bail application for his client.
He told the court that the first defendant is critically ill and coughs out blood.
But the prosecution lawyer, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, objected to the bail application on the grounds that it cannot stand because it is premised on the previous charge.
In a short ruling, Justice Binta Nyako ordered that the defendants be remanded in the custody of the IG Intelligence Response Team (IRT).
Justice Nyako also directed that the defendants be granted access to their lawyers while in custody.
The judge ordered the police to give proper medical care to the defendants and within the police facility, adding that a medical report on the health of the first defendant should be submitted to her.
She adjourned till June 22 for commencement of trial.