By Temitope Adedeji in Akure
The Fulani herdsmen who allegedly kidnapped the former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, were arraigned before Ondo High Court on Thursday. They pleaded not guilty to the offence against them.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Ondo State Command, arraigned the five suspects, who allegedly seized Falae on his 77th birthday, before an Akure High Court.
Following their arrest last week and parade at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, had ordered their transfer to Ondo State, where they allegedly committed the crime, to face criminal charges.
The suspects were brought before Justice William Rotimi Olamide of the Ondo State High Court in Akure. He later adjourned the case till 10th of November, 2015.
The five suspects: Bello Jannu, Musahudu Muhammed, Abubakar Auta, Idris Lawan and Umar Ibrahim, after they had been arrested at different locations, pleaded not guilty to the five-count charge read out to them in court.
The five-count charge borders on procuring or counselling one another for the purpose of kidnapping and abducting, aiding and abetting, kidnapping, conspiracy and armed robbery.
According to the prosecution, Abubakar Auta was arrested In Niger State, Umar Ibrahim in Ondo State, while Masahudu Muhammed, Idris Lawan and Bello Tanu were arrested in Ekiti State.
The charges levelled against the suspects are as follows: “That you, Abubakar Auta, Bello Jannu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed, Idris Lawal and others now at large, on or about Monday 21st September, 2015 at Kajola/Eyinala Community in Akure Judicial Division did give information for the purpose of kidnapping and abducting Chief Samuel Oluyemi Falae.
“Abubakar Auta, Bello Tanu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed and Idris Lawal, and others now at large, on or about Monday 21st September, 2015 at Kajola/Eyinala Community in Akure Judicial Division did aid the kidnapping and abduction of Chief Samuel Oluyemi Falae.
“Abubakar Auta, Bello Tanu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed and Idris Lawal, and others now at large, on or about Monday 21st September, 2015 at Kajola/Eyinala Community in Akure Judicial Division did Kidnapped Chief Oluyemi Falae, the Former Secretary to the Federation Government of Nigeria and did not release him until N5,000,000 ransom was paid.
“Abubakar Auta, Bello Tanu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed and Idris Lawal, and others now at large, on or about Monday 21st September, 2015 at Kajola/Eyinala Community in Akure Judicial Division did conspire to commit a felony to wit armed robbery.
“Abubakar Auta, Bello Tanu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed and Idris Lawal, and others now at large, on or about Monday 21st September, 2015 at Kajola/Eyinala Community in Akure Judicial Division did rob Chief Olu Falae of N15, 000 and his handset while armed with guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapon.”
The offence, according to the prosecution, are contrary to Section 2 of Anti-kidnapping and Anti-abduction Law, 5 (1) (a) of the Anti-kidnapping and Anti-abduction Laws, Section 3 (11) (b) of the Anti-kidnapping and Abduction Law, Section 6 (b) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act,Cap R11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Section 1 (2) (a) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act,Cap R11, Vol. 14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, respectively.
However, three of the five suspected kidnappers namely Umar, Lawan Bello admitted to committing the crime and sharing N100, 000 each out of the ransom paid for the release of Falae on Sallah Day.
They, through the aid of an interpreter at the court premises, confessed that the remaining money was carted away by their leader, identified as Baba Uro, who is now at large.
Ibrahim and Lawal, who do not understand English Language, disclaimed any connection to the Boko-Haram terror sect but claimed they were recruited by a suspect who is now at large.
Abubakar Auta, who served as the syndicate’s middleman and arrested by the police in Niger State, was nabbed with the sum of N823, 990.00 in his possession.
Falae, the Afenifere chieftain and former Minister of Finance during the Ibrahim Babagida military diarchy, was kidnapped on Monday, September 21, and released four days after his family had paid N5 million ransom.
The police recovered N823,990:00, 12 Sim Cards, Phone used for Chief Falae ransom negotiation and a Red Bajaj Motorcycle with Reg No; KER 385 QA used for the operation and carrying Falae to their camp in the bush when he got tired.
A police source disclosed that the ransom was collected in Kogi State while the negotiation team were in Abuja and the “field soldiers” worked in Ondo State to effect the kidnap and release of Falae.
The source revealed further that the five suspects arraigned before the High Court Justice were nabbed by the Police Special Intelligence Response Team, while two others: Usman Kato and Babawuro were apprehended in Lokoja by the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and still in their custody.
He said Falae was in the police custody on Tuesday and identified three of the suspects as those who kidnapped him and threatened to kill him if he failed to pay the ransom.
According to Falae: “And on Wednesday, one of them came and said: ‘ Look, we are going to leave here on Thursday morning and since we can’t leave you here alone, if we don’t get what we want: we will kill you.’ They said they gave me until 3pm, and if they didn’t get the money, they would execute me.
“I thank God that at 21 minutes to three, one of them came and said, ‘the money don complete.’ On the following morning, they said I should go and one of them took ropes to stitch my buba, which was already tattered,” the police source said, he also identified the one who was kind to him too.
Attempts to reach Falae for further verification proved abortive as his aides kept mute and his gateman, perhaps on strict instruction, shut journalists out of his Oba-Ile residence.
The Presiding Judge, Williams Rotimi Olamide ordered that the five suspects be remanded at the Olokuta Maximum prison till the next hearing in November.