By Chesa Chesa
The Federal Government on Wednesday explained that the delay in trying the soldiers involved in the killing of policemen who arrested notorious Taraba kidnapper, Bala Hamisu (Wadume) was because of the need to respect established military protocols.
Shielding from prosecution the soldiers fingered by alleged Taraba kidnap kingpin, , but only giving time to allow the established processes to be consummated.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, told State House correspondents in Abuja that before the military would release soldiers for civilian prosecution, it must go through an in-house court martial process.
To reduce the delay anyway, Malami said that the charge sheet for the suspects had been split up so that those available for trial would be prosecuted as they could not be held indefinitely in custody.
“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, and then for the military to release their personnel for prosecution, 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 trail 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 trail.
“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 recognized and realized by law to be consummated as it relates to the prosecution by the military as recognized by law and not in any way to intended to accord them protection in order to prevent them from being presented before the court. I hope that is clear”, he explained.
Wadume is facing a 16-count charge bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and gun-running along with Captain Tijjani Balarabe and 18 others.
Also on the list of defendants are Staff Sgt. David Isaiah; Sgt. Ibrahim Mohammed; Corporal Bartholomew Obanye; Private Mohammed Nura; Lance Corporal Okorozie Gideon; Corporal Markus Michael; L/Corporal Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra; Staff Sgt. Abdullahi Adamu; Private Ebele Emmanuel; ASP Aondona Iorbee and Inspector Aliyu Dadje and Auwalu Bala, aka Omo Razor.