Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, the alleged millionaire kidnap kingpin at the centre of a row between the Army and the Nigerian Police was a petty fish trader who suddenly became extremely rich when he took to crime, according to residents of Ibi town in Taraba State.
He was said to be so rich and popular that he wanted to become a member of the Taraba State House of Assembly in the March, 2019 general elections on the platform of the Young Democratic Party (YDP).
Before his sudden wealth, Wadume was said to also be an occasional house painter, a polygamist and as money rolled in, he also became a Robin Hood philanthropist.
His philanthropy and generosity, according to those who knew him closely, began about two years ago and would have continued unnoticed if the police had not burst his bubbles.
His real face came to the fore when the police arrested him and then lost him after soldiers of the 93 Battalion in Takum attacked their vehicle with a volley of gunfire, killing three undercover operatives and setting Wadume free.
The Defence Headquarters probing the shooting has now ordered the Army to produce Wadume.
According to a resident, no one knew Wadume until about two years ago.
“He was reclusive until the last two years. His wealth, allegedly through kidnapping, shot him into prominence,” the resident said.
But who is Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume?
According to close friends, his name is Hamisu Bala and his nickname is ‘Why Do You Mean?’, which many mistake for ‘Wadume.’ He is a Hausa man whose great grandfather migrated to Taraba from Katsina state.
He was born and brought up in Ibi local government area of Taraba State. His late father, Bala, was a Hausa man, while his mother was Tiv, from Ukum local government area of Benue State.
He holds a secondary school certificate having attended the Government Secondary School (GSS), Ibi. It was gathered that he was not a brilliant student and hence could not go beyond secondary school.
‘He completed secondary school in 2004 and did not proceed to any tertiary institution’, one of his classmates said.
Bala, 35, suddenly became so rich that many believed he made it through ‘money rituals.’ His posh residence in Ibi was built only last year. Before then, he was a petty trader who specialised in buying and selling fish in Ibi.
“He was not even a big trader; he could only afford to buy only one or most of the time, half a basket of fish to sell at retail prices,” a source, who knows him well, said.
During the 2019 polls, he aspired to become a House of Assembly member, representing Ibi Constituency, on the platform of the Young Democratic Party (YDP). But, he did not make it.
After making money, Bala began living the life of a philanthropist. In the last two years, he reportedly built houses for his friends and donated hundreds of motorcycles and cars to young men and women. He is also believed to be generous to security agents.
“Sometimes, he goes to tea sellers and settles the bills of tea drinkers. Then, he gives N10,000 each to the people,” a source in Ibi said.
Two of his wives have been under house arrest. His other two wives are in Mecca on pilgrimage, it was learnt.
So, how did the police know Bala was a big time kidnapper to the extent of apprehending him?
It was gathered that one of Bala’s accomplices known as Kwarba, was apprehended by the police in Jalingo, over his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a Permanent Secretary in the state.
During interrogation, Kwarba revealed that Bala was their leader. The police then allowed Kwarba to be communicating with Bala on the phone for over three days, as though he was not in detention. Based on their communication, the police were able to gather useful information.
It was during one of their conversations on the phone that Bala disclosed that he was coming to Ibi for the Eid el Kabir celebration. On arrival in Ibi, Bala phoned Kwarba to inform him.
Operatives of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) embarked on the journey to Ibi to apprehend him. They got to the police headquarters in Jalingo, before proceeding to Ibi, in a white Toyota Hummer Bus marked, LAGOS, MUS-564EU.
They were in mufti, and carried Kwarba along so that he could identify Bala. They met Bala at a coffee joint at the junction to Government Lodge. Kwarba identified him.
To pull the wool over the kidnapper’s eyes, the policemen in disguise, went out and told him they brought a bus for sale. Bala sought to know the cost of the vehicle so that he could buy it, but the policemen suggested they would step aside for bargaining.
It was when he (Bala) got into the bus that the policemen told him they were there to arrest him, after handcuffing and chaining his legs.
After arresting the suspect, the operatives drove into Ibi town briefly and began to drive carefully out of the town.
But while passing the coffee joint where Bala was picked, the suspected kidnapper forced his head out of the vehicle and shouted: “I have been kidnapped by these people.”
Soon, the news spread and some of Bala’s ‘boys’ began to chase the vehicle on motorbikes. The operatives had passed the first and second check points, with only one remaining to pass.
Bala’s accomplices then called the military checkpoint where the bus was ambushed. They opened fire on the bus conveying the operatives and suspected kidnapper. The bus somersaulted into the bush, following the barrage of gun fire, as the driver lost control of the wheel.
A source revealed that after the killing of the three policemen and the civilian, Bala, who was handcuffed and chained in the legs, crawled and took refuge in the home of an old Jukun woman.
The following day, he called his Army Captain friend who came with three of his ‘boys’ in a red Toyota Corolla.
It was revealed further that it was the Captain who cut the chains on the suspected kidnapper.
“It was around 7:30 am that he (Bala) was taken back to his home in Ibi in the red car,” an eyewitness said.
On getting back to Ibi, his neighbours and Ibi residents went into wild jubilation. It was gathered that while the jubilation was on, Bala sneaked out of town and has not been seen since then.