|Seyi Oduyela||Saturday, August 16, 2003|
Hyattsville, MD, USA
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A CHRONICLE OF UNRESOLVED MURDER CASES IN NIGERIA
uring the last week of May and the first week of June two historical events took place in Nigeria that will surely go down in history book. Otunba Iyiola Omisore, the leading suspect in the murder case of Chief Bola Ige was granted bail and same sworn in as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The presiding Judge in the case, Justice Olagoke Ige, granted the plea of Omisore's counsel, Mr. Kunle Kalejaiye for bail. The decision of the judge to grant Omisore bail on the murder case of this nature drew criticism from many quarters, especially those that sympathize with the Ige family.
To some people, like Professor Wole Soyinka, the dimension the case is taking is not a surprise. At the funeral ceremony of the slain Justice Minister, Soyinka alleged that the assassination of Chief Ige was a high wire conspiracy, planned and executed by powerful people in authority. During the funeral service at the Liberty stadium in Ibadan, the Nobel Laureate said in clear terms ''those who killed Ige are right here among us.'' On another occasion, he said that ''those who are at the centre of the conspiracy to kill were so confident because they knew that nothing could be traced to them.''
Ige's case is not peculiar as no high wire murder case in Nigeria has ever been investigated and culprits brought to justice. From 1985 to date, successive governments in Nigeria with its police and other security agencies have failed to bring to book killers of murder victims.
In October 1986, Nigerians were greeted with the shock of Dele Giwa's letter bomb attack on that fateful Sunday. Dele Giwa, Editor-in Chief of Newswatch Magazine was killed by a letter bomb alleged to have carried Nigeria coat of Arm. Shortly before the time, he had received a call from Brig Halilu Akilu who called to confirm if he was at home. Few minutes, a dispatcher brought a parcel, Dele Giwa seemed to have been expecting it, and he asked them to bring it in to him immediately. While chatting with his colleague, Kayode Soyinka and trying to open the envelope, the bomb exploded and that was it.
In 1990, Colonel Odeleke, husband of Bishop Bola Odeleke died mysteriously in Abuja. According to official report, a hit and run car knocked him down, but the family was not allowed to carry out a postmortem to ascertain the cause of his death. Military sources disclosed that Odeleke had been lured with juicy political appointments but he preferred to be a professional and never cease to condemn the incursion of the military in politics at every opportunity he had; this according to our source may have been his undoing. Curiously he was reportedly knocked down by car, same day he was prepared for burial, dressed even before his wife and other members of the family could see him. They were not allowed to his body. Colonel Dan Archibong, then Military Governor of Cross River State was said to have died in a ghastly motor accident. He was returning to his State after a meeting with President Ibrahim Babangida, the then Military dictator at Dodan Barracks, Lagos. It is believed that the accident was a make-up to cover up a state master-minded murder to silence Archibong because of what he was believed to know about Gloria Okon saga that led to the death of Dele Giwa. What is curious about Archibong's accident is that it was him alone who died in the accident, no other vehicle was involved and nobody passerby witnessed the accident.
Under the terror regime of late Sani Abacha, Rear Admiral Babatunde Elegbede was the first to die by the bullet of hired killers tagged armed robbers. The retired Naval Officer was felled by assassins' bullet right in the presence of his wife. Since 1994 when he was killed his killers have not been found by the State. Another Naval Officer, Omotehinwa, was unlucky to have been associated with Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade that he paid with his dear life. Alani Akinrinade was among those who formed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to fight the tyrannical government of Sani Abacha.
In January 1995, 14 people were killed in a plane crash. The aircraft left Lagos for Kano and did not get there. In the plane were Ibrahim Abacha, and his friends. Something strange happened and the puzzle has not been resolved to date. Fifteen passengers were said to have boarded the plane from Lagos to attend an Abacha family engagement that never took place, but at the scene of accident only 14 bodies were found, the fifteenth person, a Lebanese was not found, and the Head of State never bothered to order an investigation, In spite of the fact that his eldest son was killed in the crash. But event that unfolded later show that Ibrahim Abacha was not Sani Abacha's son but child of his wife for another man, Binta Yaradua's father. No wonder the bodies of those who died I the crash were not released to the families for proper burial. An impeccable source disclosed that Abacha's bodies was still fresh in spite of the crash and that of Princewill his friend who reportedly died in the crash.
Akin Omotsola former Security Officer of the Nigerian Airport Authority died in a bomb blast planted in his car. But security operatives who carried out investigation came out to say it was Omotsola who had brought the bomb to the airport for use on behalf on NADECO, whereas Alhaji Abubarkar Tsav, Lagos Police Commissioner then who initially carried out an investigation said he did not found any bomb in Omotsola's office. The unofficial cause of his death was his affiliation to NADECO.
Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, the Ibadan strong politician and a friend of the Abacha family till her death was gruesomely murdered in her Ibadan home. To ensure that she did not survive, she was reportedly shot from her private part after attempt to get her driver make love her to her failed. The driver was asked to sleep with her after being stripped naked, the driver reportedly ran away and her assailants shot her, she bled to death. Her killers are still at large according to the police.
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola's life was terminated on her way to the Canadian High Commission on 4 June 1996. Her killers though now apprehended are living like kings at the Maximum Prison Kirikiri, Lagos. Chief Alfred Rewane, a backer of NADECO paid with his life for backing the pro-democracy organization. The police arranged some people as killers but it is now clear that Pa Rewane's death was a state-sponsored one.
Major-General Tunde Idiagbon was on a visit to a friend in Abuja the rest is now history. Architect Layi Balogun, former presidential aspirant lost his life in the hands of assassins later tagged-armed robbers. Air Commodore Anthony Ikhazobo former Minister and NFA chairman was killed in 1999 and his killers are yet to be brought to book.
Uche Orji a senatorial candidate of All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP for Imo state was killed in wake of the 2003 elections nobody has ever been apprehended. Last year, two murder cases were reported in the Eastern part of the country, the state Nigeria Bar Association Chairman was killed in Anambra state, Arthur Nwakwo's younger brother was killed, the killers are still at large.
Chief Harry Marshal, a former chieftain of People's Democratic Party and later coordinator of All Nigeria's Peoples party presidential campaign in South South was murdered in his Abuja home only for the Police to parade some people as armed robbers confessing to have killed the Chief. According to the robbers they went after the chief because of the campaign money they heard was with him. The question they did not answer or which they have not been asked is who informed them that Harry Marshal was collecting any money?
Before the election, the president's first child Iyabo escaped death but her friend's children in the car with her that fateful day paid with their lives to save her. The two kids under 13 were killed and no word from the police on who did it or any clue to the intention of the killers.
From 1999 to date more than six murder cases have been reported and the police and the entire security community in Nigeria have resolved no one. What could be responsible? Sources and evidence reveal that the police and other security agencies have compromised. Their attitude and the way they carry out their investigation make them culpable of assisting the killers to cover their tracks. Anthony Ikhazobo was said to have been killed by armed robbers yet they did not take anything from the him.
What is disturbing is that under the democratic government of President Obasanjo the Police have not been able resolve any murder case. The Kudirat Abiola's murder case was at the instance of Sergeant Jabilla a.k.a. Rogers who came out to confess. We have more murder cases in this government within a period of four years than in any government either military or civilian. In fact study show that between May 1999 and July 2001, 252 cases of extra-judicial killing of the police and other security agencies were recorded. Far higher than in the last two military regimes.
One of the most troubling cases of murder was the case of Napoleon Igboku-Out, journalist and environmental activist. Igboku-Out stumbled on a piece of information in 1999 that borders on national security. Perhaps if something had been done may be we may not have had the serious case of terrorism facing the world now. According to the information, extremist Palestinian Islamic group, Hamas, were to train some Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria for an all-out Islamic Jihad against the non-muslims, they had recruited Iraqi dissident military officers. The Islamic Jihadists, the report says had already established training camps in Northern Nigeria and were recruiting Sudanese Muslims and smuggling them through Niger Republic into Maiduguri, Kano and Kaduna in readiness for the planned bloody campaign. The report named a certain Sheikh Omar Baleri, head of Hez Bothriah, an Islamic group with a bridgehead in Northern Nigeria as the brain behind the set up in Nigeria. Another Omar Bakri Mohammed was mentioned with email address: [email protected], checks on this email in 2002 show that it has been deactivated.
Igboku-Out contacted the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS) Colonel Kayode Are (rtd) who did not see anything serious and alarming in the information. Are's only response was to lodge the activist in a hotel in Abuja while he pussyfooted. His attempt to see President Obasanjo directly was rebuffed. A day after he came back from his fruitless trip to Abuja, Igboku-Out was visited by unknown assissins, the rest his history. He got killed, according to report he was slaughtered and what the SSS could do was to ask for the document of the information Igboku-Out was working on. His gone so is the case. The file has been thrown into the dustbin of the police just like the ones before him. From 2000 to date Nigeria has had many religious-motivated demonstrations where many lives were lost. In February 2000, riots erupted in Kaduna, over 2000 people were killed and nobody was brought to book, in spite of the fact that someone was caught in the security report to have supplied machetes to Muslims to attack Christains. More than 3000 died in Kano in 2001 while 200 were killed in 2002. For all these deaths no one has been arrested or charged.
That fifth columnists are within the system is not untrue. The president once hinted in 2001 December that there are a lot of things that he ought to know that he was not briefed. The president's suspicion of his security aides underscores the belief that these people are working to frustrate the government. But the president is not helping matter by retaining them in government.
What is disturbing and disappointing is the case of chief Bola Ige and the kids killed in the President daughter's car. Not many people belief that the Ige case will not go the way of Dele Giwa, Alfred Rewane and Suliat Adedeji. The PDP chairman Audu Ogbeh scored high when he refused Omisore application to join the party, but event that took place after this showed that the PDP chairman was speaking with his tongue within his cheek. After the arrest of Omisore, Commodore Bode George and Alhaji Atiku, who reportedly wept in the house of Chief Ige when he paid his condolence visit was present when Omisore's name was mentioned as the PDP's senatorial candidate, curiously in Chief Bola Ige's senatorial district. The following day, Vincent Ogbuluafor, PDP General Secretary addressed the press debunking the claim by Bode George that Omisore is their candidate, according to him, the impeached Deputy Governor of Osun State is still standing trial of a murder case not until when he is cleared the party will not accept him. But on the Election Day, Omisore contested from detention and defeated Alliance for Democracy candidate, Senator Akinfenwa, the Independent Electoral commission, declared him winner.
Who sent Omisore's form to INEC when Audu Ogbeh and Ogbuluafor have told the world that they were not fielding persons with questionable records as candidate? How come INEC registered someone standing trial of murder of a former Justice Minister? Who cleared him? Which of the security agency gave him clearance to contest? How did he sign his form? All these and many are questions begging for answers. In London recently, Audu Ogbeh told a journalist in an interview that he warned his colleagues in PDP to drop Omisore, but they insisted. The question is who are these South western PDP stalwarts who insisted in fielding Omisore? The question is not far-fetched. Bode George who was in Chief Ige's house shedding crocodile tears wanted someone standing trial of Ige's murder to contest an election, even from the Late Ige's Senatorial district.
Investigation revealed that Omisore was shocked that he could be picked and detained. A source disclosed it was he threatened to mention names of Yoruba leaders involved that Bode George went to Osogbo in company of Vice President Atiku to announce Omisore's candidature.
Just after the murder of Chief Ige, Deputy Inspector general of Police Abimbola Ojomo, now retired, who was then the Head of the Force Criminal Investigation Department was commissioned to handle the case. She enlisted the services of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad under Assistant Commissioner of Police Amusa Bello to find Ige's killers. After combing Ibadan, Osogbo and Ife most of Omisore's aides became guests of the Alagbaon office of the FCID, but suddenly Ojomo was retired and Bello was redeployed. A serious dimension in the case was the double speak of Chief Bola Ige security guard, Andrew Olotu, who went to court three days after Omisore won his election that he was tortured to implicate Omisore. Just like a script written and been acted, events began to unfold, following the change of statement by the key prosecution witness, the widow of the slain Justice Minister died of heart attack, Omisore regain his freedom after Justice Olagoke Ige granted him bail, he was sworn in as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That Omisore is connected at the top is no news and not under any contest. While his crisis with his boss, Governor Bisi Akande was on, he was seen more in Abuja, State House than Osogbo. Investigation showed that his host was Vice President Atiku. This then explained why the Vice president was in Osogbo to declare Omisore PDP candidate. What could be the relationship between the Vice- President and Omisore? Adebayo Damola (Fryo) gave the answer when he told the Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo that the Aso Rock backer of Omisore during the crisis was in the Presidency. Things took a new twist immediately after Ige's murder, Omisore who was a regular face at the State House, Abuja became unwanted by his host. What has been President Obasanjo to this development? Why is he maintaining the unusual silence the matter?
According to a source, the case of Chief Ige's murder is just like that of Chief M.K.O Abiola in which the government of General Abdusalami Abubakar still find it difficult to exonerate itself from. President Obasanjo's dropping of a ministerial nominee under the guise of being allegedly mentioned and interrogated on Ige's murder is very questionable. The man according to report was given security clearance but inspite of that Obasanjo dropped him while the prime suspect is sitting in the Senate chamber as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It surprising that the President who is trying to maintain a see-no-evil attitude over Ige's murder case is now stepping into the Anambra State crisis. According to reports, he has ordered that the matter be investigated even when the matter is already a matter of litigation in a court of law. The federal government is now being represented in the case while there was no objection on the federal's part to the bail a High Court granted Omisore.
A new twist to the case came recently when the new judge handling the case ordered that Omisore should be remanded in prison, by implication over-ruling the earlier bail granted by the former judge. Observers are watching the unfolding drama, perhaps if the killers of the Cicero of Esa-Oke were brought to book. So far available evidence still points to Omisore as the prime suspect. Besides Alani Omisore who was identified by Ige's security guard, Andrew Olotu, Muyiwa Ige, son of the slain Minister also identified another suspect. In late March 2003, at he resume trial of suspects in the murder trial, emotion hit the boiling point when on sighting Pade Omisore, another cousin of Iyiola Omisore, Muyiwa Ige identified him as one of those who killed his father. According to the interview he granted a Nigerian news Magazine he said: ' everywhere was bright and the gunmen were facing me. When I was ordered to lie down, I lay on the bed, so I had a good view of the room. My recollection is correct I saw one of the two gunmen that held us hostage in my mother's room with pump action gun in this court on Wednesday, March 26 and I pointed him to the police.'' Pade Omisore was afterward arrested and detained by the police.
Though Andrew Olotu had denied his earlier statement, Assistant Commissioner of Police Amusa Bello who was the chief investigator of the case declared in the court that Olotu was never tortured according to the Police officer, it was Olotu who came to him to report that he has seen one of the killers at the Police Station Alagbon. According to police sources, Olotu was to be released on bail after his interrogation, ''and as he awaits his release Iyiola Omisore's were entering when Olotu sighted Alao Omisore and called the attention of ACP Bello,'' our source said. At the Police station, Olotu demonstrated how he was held at gun-point by the suspected assailants to lead them to Ige's bedroom, unknowing to Olotu, his confessions and the drama was recorded by Amusa Bello, Bello has promised to release the tape to the court as evidence that Olotu was never tortured to give false witness against Omisore. The Osun State Commissioner of Police also told the court that it was Iyiola Omisore who told him first that Chief Ige had been murdered. Who told Omisore is what the court will want to know soon.
There was also a report that Omisore was sighted in front of his father-in-law's house at 4pm of 23 December holding meeting with his aides, according to our source the street at Eleyele, Olorunsogo area of Ile-Ife was deserted that day. Our source disclosed that they were armed with sophisticated weapons with Omisore directing the affairs. The occupants of a house near Chief Ige's house have been identified as Omisore's political allies. Checks revealed that the house belongs to Omisore, that he bought the house uncompleted months before the murder of Chief Ige. Surprisingly, the occupants of the house developed wings and disappeared into the thin air Monday 24 December, a day after Ige was murdered, and the Police have declared them wanted. With Iyiola Omisore back in prison custody, Nigerians await what becomes of the case. but the ruling PDP will have to a mile further to clear itself of complicity in this case. Also we shall soon know why Atiku was at the Osun State campaign where Omisore was declared candidate. Curiously he did not feature in any other south west campaign before and after Osun state's.