Bukola Saraki

The Nigerian Police must do the needful to convince Nigerians that linking Senate President Bukola Saraki to the Offa bank robbery, is not politically motivated, Shola Oyeyipo writes

A quick check in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital and other parts of the state reveal a swelling emotion in support of son, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who has his back against the wall, once again, once again on account of political persecution. This feeling is being reinforced by yet another ordeal he is forced to experience by the police; though he is not quite off the hook at the Conduct of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial where various charges were brought against him, Saraki has continued to maintain that the attack on him stems from the that he emerged Senate President against permutations of certain vested interests in the APC. Similarly, he has continued to tell whoever cares to listen that linking him to the Offa robbery is orchestrated to soil his name.

The suspicion that Saraki may be singled out for the kind of treatment meted to Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West senatorial district, was heightened last Monday when Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, an assistant commissioner, said Saraki would be questioned for alleged criminal indictment by five suspected gangsters involved in the April 5 bank robbery in Offa, Kwara State. Saraki was told to report to the Force Intelligence Response Team office in Guzape, Abuja to clear the air on the allegations against him by the suspects who purportedly said they were political thugs used by the Senate President and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State. Though Saraki earlier said he was ready to honour the police invitation, he was later given an option to present his written defence by Wednesday. Statutorily, the biggest job of the police is to forestall all forms of criminality in the society. That is the only way to facilitate security; in a society where no one is above the law. The Senate President is not above the law.

It is not out of place for the police to invite him for questioning. In the present circumstance, however, there are curious indications to leave room for doubts. The revelations and allegations against the governor and the Senate President by the purportedly self-confessed robbers are still in the realm of assumptions. Legal egg heads around the duo would have in place a well-articulated defense. So, the on-going buzz on the issue is simply the beginning of yet another media trial. That was one of the reasons leaders of New Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), pulled out of the planned meeting with the federal government.

For the same reason, former acting PDP National Chairman and a chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Kawu Baraje alleged – alleged persecution of members using state security apparatus. According to Baraje, “We recognise the powers of the police to conduct criminal investigations but by rushing to the public with the issue even when they have unfettered access to the leadership of the National Assembly suggests an attempt to undermine, caricature and humiliate the institution of the legislature.” Another aspect of the matter generating suspicion is the fact that Saraki had earlier raised an alarm on plans to frame him up. It may be argued also that there is no evidence to ascertain foul play with the police. The only pointer is the manifest hostile relationship between the lawmakers and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris.

The police boss had ignored calls to appear before the senate, for the third consecutive time. It was at the peak of that face-off that Saraki raised the alarm that the police boss was trying to implicate him. At plenary, Saraki told other lawmakers: “My distinguished colleagues, there is an issue which I need to bring to your attention very urgently. My state governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed revealed to me an information at his disposal that a group of suspects who had been in police cells for several weeks for cultism and whose investigation had been concluded with prosecution about to commence under the state law based on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Ministry of Justice were ordered to be transferred to Abuja.” He pointedly alleged that the plot was part of the strategy by the IGP Idris to settle scores over the declaration by the Senate that he is not qualified and competent to hold any public office, within and outside the country and that he is an enemy of Nigerian democracy based on his usual disrespectful conduct towards lawful authorities.

The Senate arrived at this conclusion after Idris’ repeated refusal to appear before it to answer questions related to the spate of killings across the country and the inhuman treatment allegedly meted to the lawmaker representing Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye. Apparentlty disturbed by the resolution, the IGP Idris, instituted a legal action in the Federal High Court, Abuja, to invalidate the May 9, 2018 resolution of the Senate declaring him “an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria The IGP, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/554/2018, last week, prayed the court to bar the Senate from taking further steps with regard to a resolution it reached on May 9, wherein it purportedly passed a vote of no confidence on him. In an affidavit filed in support of his application seeking the court’s permission to file a substantive suit to challenge the resolution, Idris said the conduct of both the Senate and its President, Dr Saraki, in the proceedings leading to what he described as their “legislative judgment” was borne out of hatred and “undisguised contempt..” Public opinion is not generally favourable to the Police. A quick check, particularly on the social media shows that the many Nigerians think that there is more to the matter.

The natural ruler of Offa disagreed with the police over the matter. For instance, Wale Adetona, like most others, took to Twitter to air his views on the matter and according to him, “This Offa bank robbery and Saraki indictment is dirty politics gone too extreme.” Sola Kuti said: “If I were Saraki, I would get my lawyer to inform the police that I would only be available on Tuesday at 4pm. Tuesday morning I would impeach Buhari and Osinbajo…then become acting president and arrest the IGP for murder of Kano REC.” Funsho Samuel sees no reason Saraki should take the matter seriously from the beginning. He said: “….And you think he (Saraki) will honour such invitation? The Senate invited the IGP more than three times to appear before it but he refused.

So why should Saraki honour their own invitation?” Alawode James-Jumoke, on her part, felt the police was leaving its vital responsibility of protecting lives and property undone while putting effort on the Saraki issue. “While the IGP is investigating Offa bank robbery; can we start arresting the criminals killing people daily in Benue and Taraba?,” she asked. A group loyal to former Kano State governor, Alhahi Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kwankasiyya, posted what insinuated that the executive may be vindictively targeting some critical opposition members. “Saraki is behind Offa bank robbery, Dino is a gun runner and Shehu Sani is a murderer. Waiting for OBJ’s decorative tag,” Kwankasiyya wrote on Twitter,” with Torchy Okwara adding, “This is Nigeria, everybody is a criminal.”

The Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoue II , did not mince words. He absolved Saraki, of any complicity in the robbery incident. The first class traditional ruler, in a statement signed by his Principal Private Secretary, Dr. Tajudeen Oloyede, also said Offa people will not be a party to what would ridicule Saraki in any way. He therefore called on the police to be alive to its responsibility and avoid unnecessary sensationalism in the handling of the investigation into the robbery incident The king appeared to have the support of some of his subjects .

The President and Secretary of the Offa Defendants Union (ODU), Alhaji Najimdeen Yasin and Mrs. Wosilat McCarthy, who spoke on behalf of Offa people, said the people want a detailed investigation devoid of biases and politicking. “The attention of the community has been drawn to claims by the police that some of the suspects arrested in connection with the robbery, which occurred in Offa in April, have implicated Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President. “While we do not want to prejudice the ongoing investigation by the Police on this case, the community will appreciate thoroughness to ensure equity and justice on the matter. “Dr. Saraki, a two-term former governor of this state and the President of the Senate, has always considered Offa as a second home.

Offa people are well bred citizens and are always appreciative of his kind gesture and immeasurable benevolence. The community, therefore, holds the Senate President in high esteem. This is not to distract or disturb the investigation by the Police,” ODU stated. Though no one can say for sure where the pendulum will eventually swing in the matter, it is advisable that the police authority handle this matter with professional precision to avoid making the investigation look as though it was politically motivated.