After a trial that lasted three years, Hamisu Bala, popularly known as Wadume, has been sentenced to seven years in jail by a Federal High Court in Abuja. Justice Binta Nyako convicted Wadume of two counts out of a 13-count charge brought against him by government.
Charged along with Wadume were Uba Bala (aka Uba Delu), Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul who all got seven-year sentences as well. Aliyu Dadje, a police inspector, was sentenced to three years in prison for tampering with official records to conceal a crime. Dadje was the station officer at Ibi council area divisional police headquarters in Taraba State at the time of the crime and, according to the charge sheet, he tampered with entries made by Inspector Felix Adolije of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP)’s Intelligence Response Team in August 2019 by tearing off the entry page to cover up a team of military personnel fingered as conspirators with Wadume. Two other co-accused persons, Auwalu Bala (aka Omo Razor) and Bashir Waziri (aka Baba Runs), were discharged and acquitted for want of evidence.
Wadume and the others were arraigned by the Attorney-General of the Federation for kidnapping, murder, terrorism and illegal arms running. That arraignment was against the backdrop of the killing of three police officers and two civilians by soldiers upon Wadume’s arrest on August 6, 2019, by police personnel. In that encounter, Wadume was sprung free from arrest by police officials who were killed in a hail of gunfire by soldiers from 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State. Five other police operatives came away with severe injuries. Wadume was re-arrested some two weeks later by the police. In court, however, only two out of 13 counts in the charge sheet – namely escaping from lawful custody and unlawfully dealing in prohibited firearms – stood the test of prosecution.
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Prior to his arrest, Wadume had a reputation for slippery manoeuvre through the Nigerian security setup. The August 6, 2019 incident opened up bitter acrimony between the army and the police. The army explained that it was an unintended firefight stemming from mistaken identity by soldiers involved, who in response to a distress call mistook the police personnel for kidnappers and the arrested suspect for a victim. But the police insisted that the soldiers’ real motive was to free the arrested suspect at the cost of taking out policemen who arrested him. Amidst the war of words by the security services, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an inter-service probe which eventual report (if it was ever submitted) seemed to have counted for little. Following Wadume’s re-arrest, the police issued to the public a purported confessional video recorded during interrogation, in which he reportedly said an army Captain and some other officers were on his payroll. He also allegedly said he usually paid his way with generous ‘tolls’ at security checkpoints en route to hideouts after criminal operations.
Ten military personnel were charged along with Wadume and his co-accused, but their trial was later separated for procedural reasons. They included Captain Tijjani Balarabe, Staff Sgt. David Isaiah, Sgt. Ibrahim Mohammed, Corporal Bartholomew Obanye and Private Mohammed Nura. Others are Lance Corporal Okorozie Gideon, Corporal Marcus Michael, Lance Corporal Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra, Staff Sgt. Abdulahi Adamu and Private Ebele Emmanuel.
With all the notoriety that trailed the exploits of Wadume and collateral fatalities that attended his arrest, it is shocking that only two tangential counts against him stuck before the law. Was it a case of shoddy prosecution, since it must be assumed that the court adjudicated on the strength of arguments marshalled before if? And was the feebleness of the case a function of lack of valid accusations against Wadume, or was it an extension of his notorious slipperiness before law and order? Contrary to all reasonable projections, the sentence that the criminal has come off with is a flagrant slap on the wrist. It is not even certain he can legitimately be regarded now as a ‘kidnap kingpin,’ as he is often tagged, since that charge apparently didn’t hold up in court.
To put things bluntly, the ‘escape’ of Wadume – yes, we call it an escape of sorts in the circumstance – from heavy hand of the law smacks of another conspiracy of the kind he was notorious for with security agents. It was like treating with kid gloves a notorious criminal who had a reputation for costly toll in his exploits. In effect, the court verdict came across as a carefully crafted mitigation of recompense, whereby in fulfilling all righteousness of law, the law was fulfilled but not the righteousness. Unfortunately, this signals a boost to kidnappers.