by Halimah Yahaya
Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, has defended his decision to withdraw charges against soldiers indicted for the killing of police officers who arrested an alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, popularly called Wadume.
Mr Wadume was first arrested in Ibi, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019, by policemen from the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector General of the Police office.
He was arrested for a kidnap case in which he was said to have demanded N106 million as ransom.
But between Ibi and Wukari communities, the police team of 10 persons came under fire from soldiers. Three officers and a civilian were killed in the process, while several others were injured.
Mr Wadume was, weeks later, re-arrested by the police.
The indicted soldiers who were initially charged along with Mr Wadume shockingly had their names removed from the charges by Mr Malami’s office earlier in June.
Mr Malami’s action has been condemned by many Nigerians, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana.
Mr Wadume is now standing trial on a 12-count charge of terrorism. He is being prosecuted by the AGF’s office alongside Aliyu Dadje (a police inspector), Auwalu Bala (aka omo razor), Uba Bala (aka Uba Delu) Bashir Wazlri (aka baba runs), Zubairu Abdullahi (aka Basho) and Rayyanu Abdul.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the suspects were denied bail, on Wednesday, and remanded in prison.
Malami Defends Stance
On Wednesday, Mr Malami said it was not true that his office is shielding the indicted soldiers.
He said the authorities were “only giving time to allow the established processes to be consummated.”
He spoke while briefing State House correspondents after his presentation to the virtual meeting of Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
He said he withdrew the charges against the soldiers to allow the army to court-marshall them and conclude its internal process.
“It is important for you to note that within the context of the Nigerian law, there are certain provisions that are exclusive to the military within the context of law on court-martial and then, the internal discipline associated with the military.
“The soldiers can now be charged before court-martial. Ordinarily, there are in-house processes and procedures that are to be consummated. So, those that are handy for the purpose of prosecution cannot be held in custody for unduly longer period of time on the account of the absence of the military.
“So that is how the idea of severing the charge to allow those that are handy to stand their trial arose.
“That does not mean that by any means that the military are shielded and cannot be prosecuted. But if they have to be prosecuted, they have to be prosecuted within the context of the law. What is the law here? They are military personnel, first they are to go through the in-house processes.
“There are two options, either to charge them before the court-martial which is a special court established by law for the trial of soldiers or in the alternative for the military after consummation of the in-house processes should consider handing them over for trial.”
Mr Malami said his office had the constitutional duty of ensuring due process in such trials.
“On Wadume’s case, I will like you to note for the record that it’s the office of the attorney general of the federation that is constitutionally established to consider an interest of justice, public interest, and ensure the absence of abuse in the judicial process.
“Within the context of public interest and the interest of justice, what we consider by way of fair hearing is that people that are charged to court are entitled to fair hearing, judicially determined within a reasonable time.
“Then, where people are charged multiple times on account of one reason or the other, they cannot collectively be brought before the court for arraignment on account that others are at large. Those that are available are entitled to have their case determined within a reasonable time.
“So, what has happened is perhaps a delay for a limited time to allow the processes recognised and realised by law to be consummated as it relates to the prosecution by the military, as recognised by law, and not in any way to intended to accord them protection in order to prevent them from being presented before the court.”