Who killed Comrade Oyerinde? Armed robbers or assassins?
Last week, the Nigeria Police announced that it had arrested those who, (on May 4, 2012 in Benin) assassinated Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, the former principal secretary of the Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. It was further stated that the assassins had named their sponsor who allegedly promised to pay them N20 million and that part payment was already collected before the dastardly operation was carried out. Following an identification parade conducted by the Edo State Police Command, a close friend of the deceased, Rev David Ugolor, was allegedly fingered by the assassins. Notwithstanding the vehement denial of complicity, Ugolor has since been detained.
But in a curious twist to the claims by the police, the State Security Service (SSS) last Wednesday held its own press conference in Abuja where another gang of suspects publicly confessed that they killed Oyerinde in a violent robbery attack. The SSS allowed journalists to interrogate the six young men who confirmed that Oyerinde was murdered during a robbery operation. Instructively, they dismissed the police theory of assassination at the instance of Ugolor who they claim they don’t know. Three of the men, said to be the buyers of the stolen items from Olaitan's house, also made confessional statements at the media briefing.
We find it worrisome that the handling of this heinous crime has thrown up many unanswered questions about which our law enforcement agencies seem unembarrassed. Yet it tells a sorry state of our criminal justice system that a murder investigation would be carried out in such a cynical manner by two security outfits whose operatives are evidently working at cross purposes. From the two reports presented to the Nigerian public by the Police and the SSS, it is clear that two separate killer squads with separate objectives could not have killed Oyerinde at the same time. He was either killed by paid assassins or by armed robbers. But as it is, what Nigerians are being told is that Oyerinde was killed on the same day and at the same time by two different gangs working independently of each other!
What is even more unacceptable in the handling of this case is that it falls into the familiar pattern whereby, rather than conduct a serious criminal investigation followed by diligent prosecution of accused persons, the security agencies would parade some people before the camera to give the impression that they are working. Against the background that the presumption of innocence inures in favour of accused persons, the courts have declared the practice unconstitutional. Yet in utter contempt for the rule of law, the police and all security agencies in the country have continued with the primitive practice of media trials that never end in conviction.
In the instant case of Olaitan’s murder, the absurdity of the "confessional statements" of the different gangs of killers who allegedly committed the same crime, at the same time, in the same place and for different reasons is not lost on the public. Yet the shoddy handling of criminal matters of this nature only weakens public faith in the state and its agencies. We therefore call for an inquest into this charade of an investigation by both security outfits.
The irreconcilable contradictions are just too glaring to make any sense. The Inspector- General of Police and the SSS Director-General therefore has a responsibility to ensure that the actual killers of Oyerinde are found and made to face trial. Beyond that, they owe Nigerians a serious explanation about the integrity of their investigations in the light of the conflicting accounts on this tragic incident which have further exposed our criminal justice system to ridicule.