OYERINDE'S MURDER: SAVING NIGERIA POLICE FORCE FROM POLITICAL & MEDIA CRUCIFIXION
A Public Statement By Intersociety-Nigeria
(Onitsha-Nigeria, 5th day of April, 2013)-On 21st day of January, 2013, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, released a public statement-titled: The Nigeria Police Force: The Good Versus The Bad & The Ugly. We had in the widely publicized statement stated clearly that despite the corporate failure of the NPF in matters of security and crime in the country, there is still the good side of the Force. We also stated that there are some personnel of the Force who are less corrupt; patriotic and proven to be good ambassadors of the Force in recent times. Some of the commendable works of the NPF in recent times were highlighted in the statement, which included its investigation into the gruesome murder of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde; a principal aide to the Governor of Edo State, South-south Nigeria. We made it clear that despite the very bad image the Force attracted to itself over the years, it should be commended when its works commendably and condemned when the reverse is the case. Some of the atrocious acts of the Force in recent times such as continued extra-judicial killings, torture and corruption were highlighted.
Also highlighted as part of its good works was the 30th day of January, 2012 dislodgement of the over 3,500 police roadblocks and extortion points in the country, which, to a reasonable extent, is still in force. Hours before the statement went to press, reports came out that up to 50 dead citizen bodies, if not more, were found dumped and floating on the Ezu River of Death in Awka, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria with accusing fingers pointing in consensus at the Anambra State Police Command via its SARS terror squad to the effect that they were killed by same extra-judicially.
Alarmed by unending media altercations between the Government of Edo State and the leadership of the NPF over the investigation outcomes in the murder of the late Principal Secretary, a decision was taken by our leadership to revisit the investigation of the murder saga. This is with a view to ensuring that an undue advantage is not taken by the Government of Edo State to further destroy the already battered image of the NPF with respect to the matter under reference. It is also to ensure that the NPF is not covering up the real identities of those that murdered the late NLC Comrade as alleged by the Government of Edo State.
Following the well publicized statement of ours as well as petitions from certain quarters, the leadership of the Nigeria’s House of Representatives intervened and referred the matter to its standing committee on police affairs for civil investigation and on 17th and 27th of February 2013, the representatives of the NPF (FCID) and the Government of Edo State were heard on the contentious matter under reference. Despite the transparent public presentations by the two altercating parties, the Government of Edo State has refused to be quiet or be quieted. Just recently, the Governor of Edo State and the Attorney General of the Federation & Minister of Justice nearly engaged themselves in a free for all in a public outing at Aso Rock, the country’s central seat of power over the contentious issue with respect to the referral of the murder’s case file (armed robbery angle) by the NPF to the AGF, which the Governor frowned at.
For records, the late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, a former staff of the NLC and Principal Private Secretary to the Governor of Edo State was gruesomely murdered in the early hours of 4th day of May, 2012 at his residence, No. 65, 2nd Ugbor Road, GRA, Benin City, Edo State by some malicious armed men, minutes after he, accompanied by his friend; one Reverend David Ugolor, returned from a social night outing in Benin City with their female friends-Miss Ada Blessing Ogbonna and her relative. The gruesome murder took place less than three months before the Edo State staggered gubernatorial poll which was held in July 2012. Investigations into the murder commenced hours later same date with the arrival of the NPF special investigation team led by DIG Peter Gana-DIG FCID, seconded by DCP Chris Ezike-DC F/SARS.
From the criminological evaluation of the investigations so far carried out by the NPF investigation team, the investigation appears to be one of the most extensive and scientifically advanced criminal investigations carried out by the NPF on any capital offence crimes in Nigeria in recent times. The NPF investigations started from the scene of crime (Oyerinde’s residence), last scene seen (a hotel where the duo of Olaitan Oyerinde and one Reverend David Ugolor and their two female friends were last seen), plotters’ garden (restaurant/corner where the plot was hatched) to material victims of the crime (items stolen or taken away from the crime scene). The NPF investigators’ breakthroughs came from the forensic tracking of the telephone hardware of telephone numbers belonging to key members of the late Oyerinde’s family including his wife-Mrs. Funke Oyerinde and her brother in-law-Mr. Oletubo Adeyinka. Some of the telephones stolen from the scene of crime are four Black Berry handsets, one Nokia handset, two Galaxy taps, one I-PAD and one Laptop computer.
The celebrated forensic tracking missions started on 9th day of June, 2012 at Ragia Lemo Line, Daremi-Fagge in Kano State where the telephone hardware of Mrs. Funke Oyerinde’s phone was being used by Suspect Abubakar Lawal. The NPF forensic tracking missioners also stormed Yola, Adamawa State on 22nd day of June, 2012 on the strength of information that the telephone hardware of late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde’s phone was in use. The valuable clues so obtained led to the Benin forensic tracking mission of 26th day of June, 2012 from where one Garba Usman Maisamari of No. 11, Ezeoba Street, off Sakpoba Road, Benin City, Edo State, was arrested. Found in his possession were 23 used SIM cards of different networks among other stolen items. It was from this suspect that the stolen items from the late Comrade’s house including the ones found in the hands of one of the suspects paraded by the SSS originated. He was also alleged to be the immediate organizer of the armed robbery and murder operations in the late Comrade’s house as well as the suspect who named one Reverend David Ugolor as the sponsor of the dastardly act with an alleged promise to pay the killers N20million after execution and an instant part payment of N200, 000. The malicious deal was reportedly sealed at two plotters’ gardens in Benin City, Edo State called Bob Izua Park area and Somebody’s Parliament (a beer parlour) located at Owina Junction, Benin City.
NPF’s Re-investigation Of Seven Suspects Paraded By The SSS:
Six suspects were originally paraded in Abuja on 1st day of August, 2012 by Nigeria’s secret intelligence agency called State Security Services or SSS as the killers of the late Comrade-a theory totally believed by the Government of Edo State till date. The SERVICE, while parading them, announced to the public that the suspects were arrested in the late Comrade’s house. This dimension brought a twist into the contentious matter as how two different sets of malicious armed gangs could be arrested and paraded by the NPF and the SSS as the same killers and robbers of the late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde. On 23rd day of August, 2012, the SSS, in compliance with its establishment Act, which restricts its powers to intelligence gathering, protection of certain VIPs-very important public persons, etc; other than law enforcement and diligent criminal investigation/prosecution; transferred the seven suspects-with additional one suspect from the original six, to the NPF for diligent criminal investigation and prosecution. The suspects were transferred without Preliminary or Interim Investigation Report, which usually contains complainants, witnesses or suspects’ statements, search warrants, attestations by the preliminary investigation officers, etc. The only exhibits handed over to the NPF with the seven suspects were one Europa Pump Action gun and two Russian Double Barrel guns, said to have been recovered from one Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullahi-a Hausa-Fulani resident of Benin City and a member of the gang so called. Interestingly, the suspect vehemently denied ownership of the said guns and stated that it was only kitchen knives belonging to his three wives and a hammer that were recovered in his residence in Benin City when it was searched by the SSS.
The NPF said it requested formally from the SSS, for the provision of these, but to no avail. The re-investigation of the seven suspects by the NPF, which became pertinent owing to the inexplicable absence of the foregoing; showed no linkage between the suspects and the murder and robbing of the late Oyerinde and members of his household except a malicious transaction between Suspects Bashiru Hassan and Lawal Abubakar involving some e-communication items stolen from the late Comrade’s house, which were traced to the same NPF’s prime suspect in Benin City named Garba Usman Maisamari, who, apart from dealing on stolen items like phones, told the NPF investigators that he was hired and partly paid by one David Ugolor to execute the dastardly operation in the late Comrade’s house on 4th day of May,2012. The NPF re-investigation outcome also revealed that the seven SSS suspects were involved in other armed robbery and illicit homicide operations around Benin City, but not the murder and robbing of the late Comrade. Proper identification parades were also arranged by the NPF featuring the SSS suspects; and members of the late NLC’s Comrade’s household including Mr. Alhadu Ali Metu-the gateman, were unable to identify any of them as culprit in the heinous crime. But in the other pictorial identification parade preferred by Mrs. Funke Oyerinde, four out of many faces brought to her were identified as those behind her husband’s murder. Based on these different findings, the SSS suspects were arraigned before the Oredo Magistrate Court on 1st day of November, 2012 and remanded in prisons’ custody till date.
The Magistrate Court Arraignment & DPP’s Advice Controversy:
In compliance with the controversial Holden Charge principle-art of taking a suspect indicted by the police on capital offence before a magistrate court that lacks power to try him or her, which was reaffirmed controversially by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Lufadeju v Bayo Johnson, the suspects investigated by the NPF in the Oyerinde’s murder and other violent criminal operations around Benin City, were arraigned before an Oredo Magistrate Court on 31st day of August, 2012 via three charge sheets namely-Charge No.MOR/326c/2012, Charge No.MOR/327c/2012 and Charge No.MOR/328c/2012. They were all remanded in prisons custody and have remained there till date. In compliance with the usual practice in Nigeria’s Criminal Justice System, the suspects’ case files were forwarded to the relevant DPPs for pieces of legal advice. The pieces of advice expected were drawn from capital offences of murder, armed robbery and related others with their presumed offenders drawn from principal offenders, joint acts and criminal conspiracy-three major parties to crime. Owing to the controversies trailing the murder and armed robbery saga and jurisdictional competence of the Government of Edo State with respect to offences of murder and armed robbery and the Federal Government of Nigeria with respect to offences of armed robbery, unlawful possession of firearms and related others; the Edo State DPP and the Federal DPP offered two separate legal opinions dated 29th day of October, 2012-referenced No.01/s.6712/12(Ed0 DPP) and 21st day of January 2013, referenced DPP/ADV:128/12(Federal DPP), respectively. The Edo DPP’s advice was predicated on a referral emanating from the Oredo Magistrate Court, dated 5th day of September, 2012 and referenced MOR/21/242.
As a result, the Edo DPP established a prima facie case of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery and murder in the late NLC Comrade’s household against Suspects Garba Usman Maisamari, Auta Umaru Ali, Moses Asamah Okoro and Usman Adamu. The FCID of the NPF; the chief investigator of the heinous crime, has vehemently denied the existence of one Usman Adamu, who was included in the Edo DPP’s perused case file, on the ground that the name was strange and imported. The Edo DPP also made a prima facie case of receiving robbed property against Hassan Aliyu Babete and Idris Abdulhamid. In the case of the Federal DPP, which was strictly asked by the NPF to peruse and advice under the Robbery & Firearms Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, a prima facie case of conspiracy, armed robbery and unlawful possession of firearms was made out against Danjuma Musa, Muritala Usman, Auta Umaru Ali and Moses Asamah Okoro. Suspects Mohammed Baba Yelwa, Idris Abdulhamid, Abubakar Lawal, Abubakar Raji, Hassan Babete Aliyu and Garba Usman Maisamari were recommended to be charged for the offence of receiving stolen property in line with Section 5 of the Robbery & Firearms Act of 2004. Suspects Wilfred Eserhienrhein and Umaru Adamu(Duna) were recommended for trial under the offence of unlawful possession of firearms in line with the provisions of said Act. Interestingly, both the Edo and the Federal DPPs advised that Suspect David Ugolor would not be successfully tried because the confessional statement of prime Suspect Garba Usman Maisamari implicating him as the chief hirer of the dastardly mission was not enough under the law to convict him especially when it was not corroborated. While the Edo DPP called for his discharge and acquittal, the Federal DPP said he should be re-investigated.
Areas Of Altercation/Conflict Between The Edo State Government & The NPF:
The first major area of conflict involves the handling of the multiple fatal road accidents involving the Edo Governor’s convoy prior to Edo gubernatorial poll of July 2012, which were fully investigated by the FCID via a transfer letter (preliminary investigation report) dated 10th day of May, 2012 from the local police/SSS joint team. The NPF’s final findings revealed that the accidents were caused by the drivers’ over speeding, negligence and recklessness and that there was no political undertone behind same. The suspects were arraigned before the Fuze Magistrate Court on June 28, 2012 for conspiracy and murder and remanded in prisons custody till date without proper trial at the high court of justice. It was upon this premise that the national leadership of the PDP, which had been at the center of accusation, reacted to it publicly and said that its party has been vindicated-a development the Edo State Government did not take lightly. This marked the beginning of bad blood between the two altercating parties. The second area of conflict involves the implication of one Reverend David Ugolor in the murder saga. Reverend Ugolor, as last person seen with the late NLC Comrade, was earlier questioned by the NPF. He was again implicated by way of confessional statement as the chief hirer by prime Suspect Garba Usman Maisamari. This was followed up with proper identification parade witnessed and agreed upon by his lawyer. Reverend Ugolor was very close to both the Edo State Governor and the late NLC’s Comrade before the latter’s gruesome murder. It is a widely held view that the Government of Edo State is leaving no stone unturned to pervert the thorough investigation of the said reverend.
Further, the third area of altercation is the typographical error contained in the date of the arrest of Suspects Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman, who were arrested on 24th day of May, 2012 and handed over to the Divisional Police Officer of the Oba Market Police Station in Benin City, from where they were transferred to the Edo State SARS for unlawful possession of firearms. The FCID took over their case file on 27th day of June, 2012, in connection with the murder and robbing of the late NLC Comrade on 4th day of May, 2012. Owing to the error in the said date, the Government of Edo and its media and CSO sympathizers claimed that the duo were already in the Edo State Police custody at the time of the gruesome murder having been arrested on 24th day of April, 2012. Other than the spotted error in a part of the records, other records associated with same including the suspects’ statements bore 24th day of May, 2012 as their date of arrest.
The fourth area of the duo’s altercation is the manner with which the Government of Edo State handled its DPP’s advice in the subject matter under reference. The NPF is appalled that rather than returning the said case file to the NPF for the diligent prosecution of the defendants at the high court of justice or taking over the said prosecution, the Edo State Attorney General chose to press its legal opinion on the pages of newspaper via the Nation Newspaper of 9th day of November, 2012. It took the NPF protest letter of 19th day of November, 2012, for the said AG and his DPP to send a copy to the DIG-FCID, Abuja, Nigeria.
The foregoing factual presentations clearly show that the Nigeria Police Force, represented by the DIG, FCID and his officers performed very excellently in the investigation into late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde’s murder and, therefore, does not deserve the orchestrated media attacks directed at it, openly sponsored by the Government of Edo State, South-south Nigeria. Instead, it is the said State Government that failed woefully on its sacred social duties by allowing the suspects investigated by the NPF over the multiple fatal accidents involving the Governor’s convoy and those involved in the murder of the late NLC’s Comrade as well as other violent criminal operations around Benin City to continue to languish in the prisons’ custodies even after it said they respectively have a case to answer in the high court of justice, yet it could not prosecute them till date. Also, granted that the Holden Charge has been anti-socially okayed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, it is appalling and shocking too, that suspects in Edo State, the home of the Comrade Governor so called, are still held in prisons’ custodies ad infinitum under the guise of Holden Charge Remands or Awaiting Trials. The likes of Lagos State have extensively reformed its criminal justice administration including limiting the periods of the Holden Charge Remands to less than one month as case may be. Till date, there are no pieces of evidence from the side of the Government of Edo State particularly used or shot cartridges from the crime scene or the victim’s body, showing that they were shot from guns different in model or type from those being paraded by the NPF.
True to the position of Edo State Government, all the killers of the late NLC’s Comrade may not have been found in their completeness. From this date till next seven years, as allowed by law, investigations into the matter are still open and anybody including one Reverend David Ugolor and one Comrade Oshiomole Adams can be diligently investigated or re-investigated, either now or in nearer future. Any of them can be innocent or guilty. The Nigeria Police Force is the police of every Nigerian-the good, the bad and the ugly; therefore, it must be protected especially when it gets it right and bashed unpardonably when it gets it wrong. On our part, our criticism of the NPF from time to time is purely reformative, constructive and strategic. In all, it is meant to reform and refocus the Force and not to destroy it. It should be commended where necessary and condemn where necessary as well.
We call on the Government of Edo State to carry out extensive reforms of its criminal justice administration particularly as it concerns the maximum periods the Holden Charge Remand inmates can be held before being tried in the high court of justice. The Apex Court’s pronouncement on the legality and practicability of the Holden Charge in Nigeria –Lufadeju v Bayo Johnson should be revisited and reversed. It is our advocacy position that if a court lacks jurisdiction in any criminal trial, it should expressly wash her hands off the case completely and order the arraigning police officers to take their suspects back and charge them in the appropriate courts. Remanding suspects in prisons custodies and ordering that their case files be transferred to the DPP for legal advice so called expressly amounts to assumption of jurisdiction, which the same magistrate courts claim to be running away from.
Since no citizen can be charged in two courts at the same time over same criminal offence in Nigeria, the Edo State DPP is called upon to take over immediately the diligent trial of all the suspects indicted by itself including the presumed murderers and robbers of the late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, the Governor’s convoy multiple accidents offenders and those indicted over several violent criminal operations around Benin City including those paraded by the SSS and re-investigated by the NPF, who are still languishing in prisons custodies almost one year after the said capital offences and related others were committed. Those suspects not covered by the Edo DPP perused case files, but who were indicted by the Federal DPP under the Robbery & Firearms Act(special provisions) of the Federation should be tried by same immediately.
Written By Emeka Umeagbalasi & Comrade Justus Ijeoma