Governor Adams Oshiomhole
Unlike other murder cases in the country, that of Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, has become a thorn in the flesh for the police, Davidson Iriekpen writes
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is not new to battle. As a comrade-governor that he’s fondly called, he’s always combat ready to fight a cause that he believes in. In the past, as a labour leader, he had come face-to-face with guns, daring security agents to cock and shoot without fear for his life.
Now, Oshiomhole, whose Principal Private Secretary, Olaitan Oyerinde, was murdered in cold blood in his home a few months before the governorship election in Edo State last year, has charged the police to unmask the killers of his aide.
He says: “I cannot pretend, I remain aggrieved and I believe it’s a shame, a national embarrassment that a governor can’t get justice. If a governor can’t get justice, what is the hope of a tomatoes seller, what is the hope of a road-side mechanic, what is the hope of a motorcycle rider?”
Livid, Oshiomhole declares: “The police will not rest; I will not rest until the police get the killers of Olaitan.”
The governor noted that the police as law enforcement officers must recognise that they have a duty to protect the citizens.
“All of us must recognise that we are trustees of the Nigerian people. We must earn the position that we are privileged to occupy. Anywhere I see a police officer, I will keep saying it, you must produce who killed Olaitan and explain why they bungled the investigations. I have said it to the IG, I have said to the president and if I have the opportunity I will say it to those at the United Nations.’’
The governor explained that his insistence on the police to produce Olaitan’s killers is to entrench the rule of law, noting that “if the rule of law collapses, even men in uniform can’t walk freely because those outside the uniform are more in numbers. So when they submit to arrest, it’s because in their sub-consciousness, they recognise that the state exists and that the instrument of the state is a responsible police force. So help me inform the IG that I still renew my demand that he has to produce those who killed Olaitan.”
Oshiomhole who had been at a loggerhead with the Police authority over the unresolved murder of Oyerinde took advantage of the prime opportunity the visit of the new Commissioner of Police in Edo state, Mr Foluso Adebanjo, to his office on resumption of duty penultimate week in Benin City, provided to hit back once more at the Police.
Perhaps Oshiomhole’s anger was informed by many unresolved murders in the country that has left many dejected and bitter with the Police authorities for not being able to bring to book the killers of their loved ones.
Oyerinde was murdered on May 4, 2012 at his residence in Benin City. The news of his assassination became an instant media hit and drew public attention obviously because of the status and personality of Oshiomhole, his employer at the time, and also because the murder occurred at a period of stormy and intense electioneering campaigns ahead of the July 14, 2012 governorship election in the state, a time Governor Oshiomhole was also seeking for a re-election into the office for a second term of four years.
As soon as the murder occurred, embittered Oshiomhole gave the police a 14-day ultimatum to find the perpetrators of the dastardly act and bring them to book. He even offered N10 million to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the murderers.
Since Oyerinde was Oshiomhole’s confidant, nobody thought that it would take this long for the security agencies to unravel his killers and bring them to justice, but that was not to be.
The first hint of a supposed breakthrough in the investigations into the murder came when on July 11, 2012, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, announced that the police had arrested the people who killed Oyerinde. The IG, who addressed journalists shortly after a meeting with the officers and men of the Police Force at the Zone 5 Command headquarters in Benin City said, “I want to announce that we have arrested four persons who had killed the PA to the governor. And that is a credit to the police.”
The IG, who did not give further details regarding the arrest, took exception to a 14-day ultimatum given by Governor Oshiomhole within which to find the killers of Oyerinde and bring them to book. According to Abubakar, “You can’t just give the police 24 hours to do a miracle. We have to investigate and look at all the facts of the matter before we can come to a conclusion.”
However, controversy soon arose when the operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) arrested and paraded another set of suspects on the same matter. The confusion forced Oshiomhole to accuse the police of doing a shoddy job in its investigations into the murder. Since then, it has been accusations and counter-accusations.
A murder riddled with controversy, only recently the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke dissociated himself from a statement said to have been made by Mr. Thompson Olatigbe, who respresented him in a public hearing at the House of Representative on the murder of Oyerinde.
Olatigbe, a deputy director, Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice had told the committee probing the investigation into the murder of Oyerinde that his ministry is confused in respect of the conflicting investigative reports on the murder case and the ministry could not proceed further with prosecution of the suspects because of the need to harmonise the two reports from the SSS and Police. But this was dismissed by Adoke who claimed Olatigbe went beyond brief and described his statements a “far from the truth.”
But for Oshiomhole’s persistent pressure and harassment of the police, by constantly bringing the issue to the consciousness of the Nigerians, Oyerinde’s murder would have long been forgotten or swept under the carpet.
In Nigeria, solving murder cases whether high or low profile has, overtime, proved to be a daunting task. Indeed, most times, the venture has been unsuccessful.
Oftentimes, the police have dismissed cases of gruesome murder and assassination as the handiwork of armed robbers after announcing to the public that investigations are 'on-going' and will get to the root of the crime.'
All across the country, there are daily reports of people being murdered in their homes or on the streets with no clue of those responsible. There are equally many killers in all parts of the country who can be hired for a fee or those who go about at daytime or night to kill and rob their victims.
For every person killed, only the family members know the true depth of the pain. Though sympathisers may gather to weep, it is the bereaved who weep the loudest.
But after the weeping and agonising, there has always been a long wait for justice, if it ever comes. Though the bereaved often hope that the perpetrators of the act would be caught by the law enforcement agents and brought speedily to justice, the wait for justice can last for a lifetime.
In recent years, the wave of crime has risen to an alarming level, yet none of the Inspectors-General of Police has been able to make a difference until they are removed.
Many believe that the only way to tackle crime in whatever form is to apprehend the perpetrators and prosecute them to serve as a deterrent.
The police force is the main law enforcement organ charged with the powers of investigation, arrest, and prosecution of all those who commit crime. The Nigerian police, modelled after the British Police, are however a far cry from the dexterity of their progenitor in crime bursting and prosecution. Personnel of the force look the other way each time crimes are committed.
Now, What is becoming the order of the day is that after each murder case, the police would send its top brass or image makers to the home of the bereaved to "sympathise" and promise or even boast to "leave no stone unturned to find the killers and bring them to justice". After that, the case may have ended as the police leave the citizens to lick their wounds.
In certain instances where the victims were high profile members of the society or the nature of the murder was such that invoked spontaneous uproar, the police would bring some grumpy scoundrels who would have "voluntarily confessed" to the murder and would be paraded on television. After that, the matter dies naturally like the victim. The family members of the victim are left to bury their dead, mourn, maybe curse, and wait to see them in paradise.
Today, there are thousands of files in police stations across the nation with unresolved cases of murder and assassinations. Those who spoke to THISDAY wonder if the same police who have not recorded much success at following-up on conventional murder cases and other crimes would be courageous to unravel major crimes.
Many Nigerians are wondering how the Inspector-General of Police feels about the public's lack of confidence in the police to resolve killings.
Apart from corruption, many have argued that one of the biggest problems confronting the police is its inability to come to terms with modern challenges of forensic investigation. In developed countries, forensic investigations are used to unravel crimes even years after they had been committed. For a crime that is committed in the country, there is hardly any record in the form of bio-metrics where finger prints of the citizenry are taken in order to reference it where a crime occurs.
Taking an x-ray at the police recently, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, lamented the level of degeneration in the force.
Bemoaning the lawlessness that is pervading the nation's political space, the former EFCC boss called for a reform in the police and in the judiciary as a sure way of getting the nation back on the right track, saying that the absence of security and order is a fundamental challenge to national growth. Ribadu said the police could not deliver as expected by the populace because things were being done in the wrong way.
“In the Police force, there are wonderful people but when things don't work; when corruption has eaten deep into the system; when there are no good leaders, even the good people will be helpless. I feel ashamed as a police officer that we failed the nation in this regard. It is our duty as police officers to protect lives and property and if we failed to do this, some people will outwit us and commit crime and it will also be our duty to unravel the perpetrators. Unfortunately, nobody has been convicted for this heinous crime. In almost every city in the country, there are unresolved cases of murders and assassination. If there is the need to do so, I will apologise on behalf of the force."
Also, a public affairs analyst, Mr. Kenneth Uwadi, believes that those who engage in murders and assassinations in the country have taken undue advantage of the lapses in the security outfits to continue in this act.
He said, “When you look back into the books, there is hardly any case of murder and assassination that has been successfully resolved. The ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the national security outfits particularly the Police Force is a major reason why assassination is still here with us. It is because the Police don’t really deem it fit to arrest and try the culprits and their sponsors.”