By Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
Youths in Offa, the town where the bank robbery of April 5 took place, held a peaceful protest at the palace of Olofa of Offa on Monday to decry what they perceived as an attempt by the police to implicate Senate President Bukola Saraki in the robbery incident.
Also in Ilorin, the state capital, a coalition of Kwara youths under the aegis of Kwara Agenda, staged a protest at the NUJ Press Centre demanding that the federal government and the Nigeria Police should stop politicising the Offa robbery incident.
Police had on Sunday said five gang leaders and some of the 17 Offa bank robbery suspects confessed that they were political thugs of the Senate President Saraki and Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. The police consequently invited Saraki to appear at their Abuja office.
Among the Offa protesters were market women and artisans. The protesters under the aegis of â€˜Youths Agitator’s Nationalism Forumâ€™ carried placards with various inscriptions like, “We are one with Saraki in Offa”, “Don’t politicise Offa robbery”, â€œBaba IGP, this is too much for our leader”, â€œSaraki is the leader in Kwara”, ” Offa robbery cannot be used to settle political point”, among others.
Speaking with journalists at the palace of Olofa of Offa on Monday, the president of the forum, Mr. Peter Kayode, said police investigation into Offa robbery incident which implicated Saraki was unacceptable and uncalled for.
He said it was inconceivable that the senate president could be linked to the armed robbery in Offa community being the first dignitary that paid a condolence visit to the community over the tragedy.
He also applauded Senator Saraki for the role he played to quickly facilitate the release of Armoured Personnel Carrier to the community to beef up security.
While urging police authorities to stop politicising the incident, he threatened that thousands of Kwara youths, including secondary school students and those in tertiary institutions, would trek from Ilorin to Abuja in protest over the incident.
In his response, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye I, said the community had left “what has happened to God, but we don’t want the innocent to be punished. We want police to go after the real culprits.”
Represented by Ojomu of Offa, Chief Bayo Akinola, Oba Gbadamosi said the police must only fish out those that were involved in the act rather than trying to implicate innocent person
He added that, “Senate President Saraki was one of the first government functionaries that paid a condolence visit to Offa and even made promises to the town and had fulfilled the promises to us and we didn’t believe that he can be involved in such act.
“The Nigerian police force should ensure that those allegedly involved should be made to face the full wrath of the law and not using the issue to settle any political point.”
Also, the elders of Ajikobi Central, in a statement signed by their coordinator, Alhaji Salihu AbdulWahab Agbaji, said, ” it is illogical and unthinkable that the Senate President and the political leader of Kwara State will ask bandits to kill the citizens that he leads.
“The plot against our son is as a result of his growing popularity across the country, a situation which is making some of his political rivals uncomfortable. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently call the Inspector General of Police to order so as to allow our hard earned democracy to blossom.”
Members of the coalition of Kwara youths during a peaceful protest to the Press Centre of the NUJ in GRA, Ilorin condemned the invitation extended to Saraki by the police over the Offa robbery incident.
The youths, in their hundreds, carried placards with various inscriptions, such as “Stop evil politics,” Be professional”, “No to over politicisation of Offa robbery”, “Saraki is not an armed robber’, “Don’t implicate Saraki.”
Addressing newsmen, the coordinator, Kwara Agenda, Haruna Yakub Kannike, said that the group was surprised by the decision of the police to invite Saraki over the Offa robbery incident, adding that, “nothing can be farther from the truth”.
He added: “Our attention has been drawn to a fresh plot by the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, Abuja to implicate the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in the April 5, 2018 dastardly armed robbery attacks on banks in Offa, Kwara State. During the robbery operation that shook Offa to its foundation, many innocent citizens, including nine policemen were murdered by the bandits.
“Prominent Nigerians have blamed the wanton killings of harmless citizens in Offa on that Black Day on the inefficiency of men and officers of the Nigeria Police.
“We are, however, surprised to see the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, wanting to politicise a serious criminal offence by insinuating that our revered Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki,and our amiable Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had links with five of the arrested armed robbery suspects. Nothing can be farther from the truth!
“It’s instructive to note that this latest ploy to frame Dr. Bukola Saraki came after an earlier failed attempt by the Force Headquarters to frame our leader in a murder case involving some suspected cultists.
“The Senate President had on May 16, 2018 during a plenary in the Senate intimated his colleagues about the plot by the police to frame him up in the murder case. When that attempt failed, following public outcry, the police is now concocting another cock and bull story just to nail Saraki at all cost.
“It is on record that Saraki, because of his love for the people of Offa was the first public officer to visit us after the robbery incident, condoled with us and gave us succour”.