Police detain Abuja-based newspaper publisher for alleged attempted murder

The Borno State Police Command has arrested and detained Inuwa Bwala, an Abuja-based newspaper publisher, for alleged attempted murder.

Mr. Bwala, a former Borno State commissioner of information, is accused of the attempted murder of the current Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa.

He was arrested in Abuja by a police squad from the Borno State Police Command.

He is accused of being an accomplice in the attempted murder when Mr. Durkwa served as a commissioner in the first tenure of the present Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima.

The Borno State police commissioner, Damian Chukwu, who confirmed the arrest of Mr. Bwala, said the journalist either participated or instigated the attack on Mr. Durkwa during the last general election. He said Mr. Durkwa later went into coma.

The accused and the alleged victim are from the same Hawul Local Government Area of Borno.

Mr. Bwala later fell out with his principal, Governor Shettima, who later sacked him.

“Bwala was arrested in connection with the incident that happened sometimes in 2015 general election, when some group of persons went to attack Mr. Durkwa and beat him to stupor,” the police commissioner said.

Mr. Durkwa became deputy governor after his predecessor, Zannah Mustapha, died on August 15, 2015.

The police boss, who was then the deputy commissioner of police, said Mr. Durkwa’s attackers had the intention of killing him.

“After beating him to coma, they thought they had killed him, as they left saying ‘we have killed him, we have killed him’; not knowing that the victim was semi-conscious,” he said.

The commissioner said some arrests were made and five persons linked to the incident were arraigned in court alongside two other persons that were at large. One of those at large was Mr. Bwala, he said.

He said the five arrested persons were found guilty of attempted murder, as well as Mr. Bwala who had never appeared in court. They were jailed in 2016.

Although Mr. Bwala had been visiting the state on several occasions, the CP said there was a court ruling that declared him wanted, and they have been “searching for him”.

Immediately after his arrest, Mr. Bwala, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, sent out a WhatsApp message to journalists saying he was arrested on account of his critical reports of events in the state.

His message reads:

“And coming almost two years after the incident and at a time Durkwa has been made the Deputy Governor smacks of political vendetta. Inuwa is still being detained as at time of report, at the CID office in Maiduguri,” the message on his mobile phone number said.

The police commissioner allowed journalists to see the publisher at the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the Borno state police command, where he was being detained.

Mr. Bwala, who is diabetic, said he was kept in detention cell and was denied access to his medication. He said was only allowed to come out of the cell when the police noticed obvious signs that his diabetic condition had deteriorated.

The CP said he has given the order that the former information commissioner be taken to hospital for necessary medication checkup.

At the time journalists visited the office of the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the CID, Mr. Bwala was in an unstable health condition as he awaited police escorts that were to accompany him to the hospital.

“This is just a script that is being played out here; the incident for which I was being accused happened when I was not in Marama; I don’t know how I could instigate an incident in a place I was absent,” he said.

The CP said he has been receiving calls and visits from prominent Nigerians seeking to get him on bail. But the police boss said he has no such powers to grant an accused in a homicide case bail.

“My hands are tight here; this is a homicide case. It is a case of attempted murder and only court of competent jurisdiction could grant him such bail. We have taken his statement, which we would forward to the state ministry of justice where his arraignment would be decided.

The police have not indicated when Mr. Bwala, who was brought into Maiduguri on Wednesday, would be arraigned in court.

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