A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Femi Falana, on Monday, asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to ensure the arrest and prosecution of 10 soldiers accused of killing three policemen and two civilians in order to free an alleged kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu (Wadume), from police custody in Taraba State.
Falana, who made the reguest in a letter dated June 15 and addressed to the AGF, was written on behalf of the family of one of the slain policemen, Inspector Mark Ediale.
A 16 count charge bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and illegal arms running was brought against Wadume and other alleged accomplices by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu in February this year.
The alleged accomplices included two policemen and 10 soldiers led by Captain Tijani Balarabe, who were alleged to have killed the policeman and took Wadume away on August 6, 2019.
The AGF, however removed the names of the soldiers from the charges after taking over the case from the Inspector General of Police on June 8, 2020.
Falana, in the letter demanded the “immediate arrest and prosecution of 10 soldiers who killed three policemen and two civilians in Taraba State on August 6, 2019″, threatening “appropriate action” should the minister fail to grant the request within seven days.
“Take notice that if you fail to accede to our request within seven days of the receipt of this letter we shall not hesitate to take appropriate action under the law in order to ensure the slain police officers and civilians do not die in vain,” the lawyer said in the letter.
According to Falana, the removal of the soldiers’ names from the charges by the minister violated section 174 of the Constitution which gives the AGF the power to only take over cases in public interest.
He also recalled that Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja had on March 16, 2020 issued an order compelling the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to produce the indicted soldiers in court.
Falana further contended that Malami, instead of using his position as the chief law officer of the federation to ensure compliance with the court order as stipulated in section 287 of the Constitution, took over the case from the police prosecutor, amended the charge and withdrew the case against the 10 soldiers.
“In view of the gravity of the 16-count charge of terrorism, murder and kidnapping pending in court against the 20 suspects, you will agree with us that the withdrawal of the case against the alleged 10 killer-soldiers is not in consonance with section 174 of the Constitution which provides for the takeover and withdrawal of pending criminal case ‘in the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process’.
“Stemming from the foregoing, we hereby request immediate compliance with the valid and subsisting order of the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division by ensuring that the suspects who are at large are produced by the Chief of Army Staff or whoever has their custody so that they can be arraigned and tried in accordance with the law”, the letter read partly.
Continuing, the human rights activist noted that the soldiers “forcefully freed the suspect and embarked on the gruesome murder of three policemen and two civilians in cold blood” while “five other policemen sustained life-threatening injuries during the attack.”
“Notwithstanding the abortive attempt to cover up the dastardly act of the alleged killer-soldiers by the authorities of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force investigated the case.
“However, the alleged kidnap kingpin was rearrested by the police.
“In the course of his investigation, the suspect gave details of the criminal activities perpetrated by him with the connivance of a number of soldiers and policemen”, Falana said.
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