The re-arrest of Taraba-based Hamisu Bala Wadume, a suspected notorious kidnapper, by the police last week came as a welcome relief to the nation, but his confessions have held Nigeria spellbound. His graphic account of how the military killed three policemen and two civilians, and wounded five other police officers, in order to set him free has unsettled Nigerians. It is difficult to believe that military personnel, who should prevent crime, would rather waste the lives of highly-trained police officers in order to rescue a suspected serial kidnapper, gun runner and fugitive.
Part of his confession reads: "The police came to arrest me. When they arrested me, the 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, but the police came to re-arrest me." Wadume, in this statement, referred to troops attached to 93 Battalion, Takum, who aided his escape on August 6. He was re-arrested two weeks after.
Wadume's confession has made easy the task before the Joint Investigative Panel set up by the Defence Headquarters, and headed by the Rear Admiral I.T. Olaiya. Though the panel has visited Taraba State and grilled army and police officers suspected to have been involved in the unprofessional conduct, Wadume's confession will provide them with essential lead for a thorough investigation.
The kidnap kingpin's account of what happened and how he had compromised security agencies in that part of Taraba State gives credence to the argument that the fight against terror, kidnapping, banditry and other crimes is protracted due to indecent relationships between bad eggs in security agencies and criminal gangs. As long as those who are to maintain law and order, and punish those who contravene the law, are in bed with lawbreakers, it will be difficult to get rid of evil and guarantee peace, security and order in society.
If security agencies' indiscipline has helped Wadume in his satanic exploits, the report that a cross-section of Taraba society condoned Wadume because of his 'generosity' is more disturbing. Certainly, the kidnapper found comfort and protection among some of his people, making it easy for him to live in safety and wealth, though he extorted ransom from innocent and helpless Nigerians.
The Wadume scandal is a slap on the face of the military and other security agencies involved in the mess. We call on them to come up with strategies to sieve their ranks and send away wolves in sheep's clothing. Those who have been proven to have compromised the integrity of security agencies should be punished as a deterrent for others who might think that their posting to conflict zones provides them with an opportunity to make illicit wealth.
We advocate that the probe into this scandal should not be restricted to security agencies. Civilians, no matter how highly-placed, who are accomplices in Wadume's sins, should be fished out, investigated and punished. As long as criminals have the backing of their society or any segment of the society, they will thrive in their crimes. Nigerian communities must be enlightened on the need to expose criminals and not protect them. As long as government is complacent about punishing those who profit from proceeds of crime, the country's journey to peace will be very long.