Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to order the immediate arrest and prosecution of 10 soldiers who allegedly killed three policemen and two civilians in Taraba State last year.
He accused Malami of taking over the case from the police prosecutor, amending the charge and withdrawing the case against the suspects.
Falana’s request was contained in a letter dated June 15, 2020, in which he accused the Nigerian Army authorities of turning down the request of the police investigation team to interrogate the 10 soldiers indicted for the killing of the three policemen and two civilians.
He said this was why the trial of the other suspects has failed to commence in Charge NO: FHC/ABJ/CR/30/2020: Inspector-General of Police v Hamisu Bala a.k.a. Wadume &19 Ors pending at the Federal High Court, Abuja due to the refusal of the military to release the suspected killer-soldiers to face justice.
Falana said, “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.”
Falana said his firm are solicitors to the bereaved family of the late Inspector Mark Ediale who was a dutiful member of the Intelligence Response Team of the Inspector-General of Police and that he has their instruction to get justice for them.
“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”, he said.
According to the Lagos lawyer the incident occurred on August 6, 2019 when a team of policemen led by Inspector Mark Ediale arrested kidnap suspect Hamisu Bala (alias Wadume) and were taking him to police headquarters in Jalingo, the state capital.
He recalled: “On Tuesday, August 6, 2019, Insp. Mark Ediale led the team of policemen that arrested an alleged kidnap suspect, Hamisu Bala (alia Wadume) who had been terrorising the people of Taraba State for over two years.”
“While Insp. Mark Ediale and the team were transporting the kidnap suspect to the police headquarters in Jalingo, Taraba State they were pursued and accosted by a gang of soldiers led by one Captain Ahmed Tijjani Balarabe. The soldiers forcefully freed the suspect and embarked on the gruesome murder of three policemen and two civilians in cold blood. 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 further called for justice to uphold for the victims, the society and even the pepetrators of the crime.
He said, “Whilst we anticipate your expeditious consideration of our request and your full cooperation in this regard we are compelled to remind you of the case of Godwin Josiah v. The State (1985) 1 NWLR (Part 11) page 125 at 141 where Oputa JSC (of blessed memory) said “…justice is not a one-way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only.”
“Justice is not even only a two-way traffic. It is really a three-way traffic – justice for the appellant(accused) of a heinous crime of murder; justice for the victim…, ‘whose blood is crying out to heaven for vengeance’ and finally justice for society at large – the society whose social norms and values had been desecrated and broken by the criminal act complained of.”