Police have re-arrested a kidnap kingpin, Mr Hamisu Bala, popularly known as Wadume, two weeks after he escaped from the custody of Intelligence Response Team while being taken to the state police headquarters in Jalingo, Taraba State.
The fugitive was apprehended at his hideout at Layin Mai Allo Hotoro area of Kano State on Monday night following a massive manhunt launched by police Special Forces and IRT members in Taraba and surrounding states.
Wadume was assisted to escape by soldiers after the police team came under attack from troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, on August 6.
Three policemen and two civilians were killed during the incident while five other police officers were injured.
In a viral video released on Tuesday, the suspect admitted that he was released from police custody by soldiers who cut off his handcuffs.
Speaking in Hausa, he said, “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 (soldiers) took me to their headquarters, and cut off my handcuffs and released me. I went back to my house and police came to re-arrest me.”
One of our correspondents gathered that Wadume was tracked to Layin Mai Allo Hotoro community by the police using sophisticated equipment which pinpointed his location through his phone calls to family members and friends while in hiding.
The suspect would in the coming days undergo intensive and marathon interrogation focused on eliciting credible information and evidence against his collaborators in the military and the police.
One of our correspondents had exclusively reported last Saturday how the investigators discovered that the Crime Officer and Station Officer in Ibi police station had connived with Wadume in his criminal enterprise.
The CO was discovered to have made over 200 phone calls to the millionaire kidnapper while the station officer was found to have torn off the entry made by the ill-fated IRT team to destroy the evidence indicating that the officers reported the operation to arrest Wadume at the station in line with police standard operating procedure.
The force spokesman, Mr Frank Mba, in a statement, said Wadume’s arrest, “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 police had been on the massive manhunt for the suspect, 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,” Mba stated.
Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, has commended the operatives for the arrest just as he also expressed his gratitude to all Nigerians for “their unparalleled show of love and empathy to the Force and families of the officers and patriotic civilians who paid the supreme price in the service of their fatherland.”
Findings showed that the Joint Investigation Panel, headed by Mr IT Olaiya, a former Director of Naval Intelligence, would still continue with its assignment.
The panel was constituted by Chief of Defence Staff, Mr Gabriel Olonisakin, to probe the incident, following a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari asking the military to investigate the killing of three policemen and two civilians in Taraba State by soldiers.
Wadume’s arrest won’t stop suspected soldiers’ probe –Military
Meanwhile, Defence Headquarters on Tuesday in Abuja confirmed that Wadume’s re-arrest would not stop the probe and investigation of army officers and soldiers identified in the killing of the policemen.
An authoritative source at DHQ, who asked not to be named, noted that the Joint Investigative Panel set up by the DHQ at the instance of Mr Buhari, would conclude its findings this week and turn them in to Chief of Defence Staff, Olonisakin.
The panel, headed by Olaiya, has officers drawn from the army, navy, air force, police, Department of State Services, and Defence Intelligence Agency.
The source said on Tuesday that the probe of the army personnel was ongoing and the arrest of Wadume would “only throw light on the investigations.”
The panel, inaugurated on Friday, August 9, had initially been given a one-week deadline, but it could not meet the deadline because of the volume of arrests and interrogations.
The DHQ source said, “I can assure you that Wadume’s arrest is not the end of the probe. The DHQ panel is continuing with its work and will properly turn in its report to the CDS at the appropriate time. The panel is ongoing with the interrogation of army personnel and others identified in the incident.
“Justice will be served to all parties in the matter. It is now likely the panel will round off any time this week, since its one week elapsed already.”
Nigerian Army, as of press time, did not react to the re-arrest of Wadume.
Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Mr Sagir Musa, was not available for comments.
Relief, sadness in Ibi over Wadume’s arrest
Meanwhile, residents of Ibi, hometown of Wadume, on Tuesday expressed mixed feelings over the suspected kidnapper’s re-arrest.
While the former caretaker chairman of Ibi Local Government Area of the state, Mr Johnson Adasho, said the arrest was a great relief because security operatives that had laid siege to the town would leave, other residents said they would miss Hamisu’s generosity.
Adasho said traditional, religious and community leaders had been living with fear following the indiscriminate arrest of the people of Ibi over Wadume’s escape.
“Now that the man in the eye of the storm has been arrested, we will have some relief. We will also wait in good faith to know the true state of the allegations against him,” he said.
But Mr Yahaya Maikifi said the suspected kidnapper’s arrest was not good news to the people of Angwan Motori in Serkin Kudu area of Ibi and other people who were beneficiaries of Hamisu’s generosity.
Yahaya said Hamisu was a benevolent philanthropist that did not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion.
“Wadume is constructing a mosque in our area. The project is almost completed and his arrest will stall the project,” he said.
Another resident, Mr Michael Adi, said the borehole Wadume just drilled at Serkin Kudu in Ibi Local Government Area would be a memorable project by the people of the area.
“I wish you were here to see the mood of the people, nobody is happy over the development. Let’s be truthful to ourselves, Wadume has done well with the people of Ibi and beyond. For some of us here, he has done well by eliminating poverty out of some families,” he said.