Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Wole Ayodele in Jalingo
Fleeing suspected kidnap kingpin, whose rescue by soldiers led to the killing of three policemen and two civilians in Taraba State, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, is back in police custody.
The suspect, who has since been moved to Abuja, was tracked down in his hideout in Kano State, the police said in a statement yesterday.
Wadume, in a video that lasted 40 seconds posted on the Nigeria Police Force official tweeter handle, @PoliceNG, narrated how he was rescued after the soldiers shot and killed the policemen while others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
He said: “I am Hamisu Bala, who is also known as Wadume. Policemen came to Ibi and arrested me and were taking me away when soldiers pursued them and opened fire on them, killing some policemen. From there, the soldiers took me to their headquarters and sawed off the handcuffs on me. After that, I ran away and I have been in hiding since then until the police re-arrested me.”
His re-arrest promises to open a can of worms as his preliminary statements to the police confirmed the force’s claim that soldiers of the 93 Battalion, Takum were complicit in his escape.
In a video posted yesterday on the verified police twitter handle, Wadume, who spoke in Hausa, said when he was arrested, soldiers pursued the police team and opened fire on them, stating: “My name is Hamisu Bala Wadume. Police came to arrest me. When they arrested me, army chased after them and opened fire. From there, they took me to their headquarters, and cut my handcuffs.”
THISDAY gathered yesterday that a certain army officer was found to have made over 150 calls the suspect fueling police suspicion that the attack on the initial arrest party which left three of its priced officers dead was premeditated.
However, another security source told THISDAY last night that the entire escape incident might have been a complex scam involving some police officers too.
“A DPO and two other police personnel in Taraba State, was found to have made over 200 calls to Wadume at one time or other,” he said, adding: “With his re-arrest, many loose ends would be tightened.”
Army Headquarters sources told THISDAY last night that its high command was relieved by the re-arrest of the suspect, saying the military had no intention to cover up any of its personnel and assured that whoever was implicated would be dealt with in accordance with military and civil laws of the land.
Members of a special anti-crime squad from the Office of the Inspector General of Police had arrested Wadume about two weeks ago and were taking him to the Taraba State Police Command, Jalingo, for questioning when soldiers attacked them on Ibi-Wukari Road, saying the police officers were suspected to be kidnappers.
The soldiers, on the order of a captain now in custody, shot and killed three policemen and a civilian instantly and set free the manacled suspect while some others sustained varying degrees of gunshot wounds, the police had said, adding that two of the injured civilians later died of wounds they sustained at a hospital they were taken to for treatment.
A statement yesterday by the force spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, said Wadume was re-arrested in his hideout in Kano State.
He stated: “The operatives of the Nigeria Police have re-arrested the notorious kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume. He was re-arrested in the late hours of yesterday, August 19, 2019, in his hideout at Layin Mai Allo Hotoro area of Kano State.
“It would be recalled that the police had been on the massive manhunt for the suspect, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, since August 6, 2019 following the unfortunate incident in Ibi, Taraba State, which resulted in the brutal murder of three police officers and two civilians, and injury to five others.
“The suspect, who was appropriately restrained at the time of the incident, was subsequently released by his “rescuers” after they had destroyed the restraining handcuffs.
“The Inspector General of Police, M.A. Adamu, while commending the police operatives for their perseverance and painstaking efforts, has expressed his profound gratitude to all Nigerians for their unparalleled show of love and empathy to the Force and the families of the officers and patriotic civilians, who paid the supreme price in the service of their fatherland.
“It is his belief that the re-arrest of the suspect, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, will no doubt help in bringing answers to the numerous but hitherto unanswered questions touching on the incident and the larger criminal enterprise of the suspect.”
The killing had precipitated a war of words between the police and the Nigerian Army after an army statement had described the slain policemen as “suspected kidnappers.”
Following the incident, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, had issued a circular warning officers and men to be circumspect in their interactions with the police in the wake of what he said was provocative and inciting statements by the police on the social media.
The police had fired back, asking the Army to accept responsibility for its actions.
The army had also insisted that the police did not inform it and other security agencies in line with standard operational practice of its operations in Taraba State.
The furore generated by the shooting prompted the setting up of an initial panel headed by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG).
Following the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, another committee led by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), headed by Rear Admiral I.T. Olaiya, was set up.
The committee had already concluded preliminary investigation and had commenced full sitting.
The Olaiya panel would also ascertain where the directives and order to fire at the policemen emanated from and whether weapons removed from the 93 Battalion armory were duly registered as required before removal and the bullets discharged before being returned to the armory.
The panel had stated at its initial sitting that the arrest of Wadume was key to resolving all the puzzles around the shooting.
Intelligence agencies, notably the Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had also tendered phone-tracking evidence before the panel.
Wadume’s Hometown in Pensive Mood
Meanwhile, Ibi, the hometown of the suspected kidnap kingpin, was thrown into a pensive mood as the news of his re-arrest by police operatives filtered into the town.
Instead of the widespread jubilation and celebration that would have heralded such arrest, the residents were rather sad that Wadume, who has been on the run since he was rescued by Soldiers of the 93 battalion, Takum, was re-arrested.
Wadume is a benefactor to many people in the town, particularly the youth whom he had bought cars and motorcycles for to earn a living.
He was said to have also provided working capital and interest-free loans to many people and also sponsored hundreds of people to Mecca for pilgrimage.
One of the youths, Sadiq Haruna, who spoke to THISDAY in Hausa, expressed sadness over the development, saying Wadume was their major benefactor who had touched their lives in a way no other person had done.
Sadiq, who struggled to hold back tears while talking, however, stated that Wadume’s ordeal was political just as he expressed confidence that he would surmount his travails.
Efforts to make other residents to speak on the issue proved abortive as it was clear that they were jolted by the news of the suspected kidnap kingpin’s arrest.
Wadume contested the 2019 election into the Taraba State House of Assembly for Ibi constituency on the platform of Young Democratic Party (YDP) but lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate.