OYO NURTW CRISES: PANEL ON WILD GOOSE CHASE - POLICE LAWYER
BY OLA AJAYI
The Oyo State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, has become a nagging pain in the neck of the people and government from time immemorial. Though, it is expected to be apolitical, the union has been enmeshed in the murky waters of politics
The killing of scores of people at the Iwo Road interchange on June 4, 2011 prompted the incumbent Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi to set up a judicial panel of enquiry to look into the problematic union. The panel led by a retired judge in the state, Justice Olagoke Ige, has been inundated with memoranda from victims and members of both factions.
However, at the sitting of the panel, yesterday, a counsel representing the police, Mr. Ijalana, called the attention of the panel to the fact that the enquiry may be tantamount to court subjudice as most of the cases being treated are pending in court. Ijalana said: 'As a lawyer, I will fail in my duty to raise some issues which are fundamental. I want to say it so that all of us would not just sit down here and waste our time. It would also afford the panel to take appropriate steps.'
IN the days of the late popular Ibadan
politician, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, the union was a ready tool in the hands of the chieftain and other politicians. They were used to impeach former Governor Rashidi Ladoja in January 2006 under questionable circumstance. The union became more popular with every election. Any politician who did not have the union members in his kitty could not boast of winning election in the state.
As a result of the incursion of politicians in its affairs, the union became factionalized. Until the brutal killing of one of the factional chairman, Alhaji Lateef Salako aka Eleweomo, some months ago, he was the one slugging it out with Tokyo who was his boss until they fell apart. After the death of Eleweomo, instead of the crisis in the union to abate, it became worse when Alhaji Lamidi Mukaila, aka Auxiliary, took the saddle of the factionalised union. This culminated in the killing of scores of people at the Iwo Road interchange on June 4. 2011 which prompted the incumbent Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to set up a judicial panel of enquiry to look into the problematic union.
The union led by the retired judge in the state, Justice Olagoke Ige has been inundated with memoranda from victims and members of both factions. Other members of the panel are Mr. Lekan Owolabi, a lawyer, Mr. Tunji Alawaye, Dr. Doyin Odebowale, a human rights activist and Alhaji Lere Omotosho, Principal Administrative Officer in the civil service of the state, is the secretary of the commission. Expectedly, each of the factions has been trying to put the blame at the doorstep of each other. While Tokyo insists that he was not in the crisis that claimed many lives at Iwo road, Auxiliary too is claiming innocence.
Wounded drivers account
of Iwo road mayhem
While testifying before the panel, a commercial driver, Mr. Mojeed Moshood, told the commission that scores of people killed at Iwo road interchange were escorted to the place by a bus with the local government inscription. Mojeed, who was writhing in pains as a result of gunshot injuries, said before he was shot, he saw a factional leader of the union and others dressed in military and police uniforms.
Panel on wild goose chase- Police lawyer
At the sitting of the panel, yesterday, before the panel started the job of the day, a counsel representing the police, Mr. Ijalana called the attention of the panel to the fact that the enquiry of the panel may be tantamount to court subjudice as most of the cases being treated are pending in court.
Ijalana said: 'As a lawyer, I will fail in my duty to raise some issues which are fundamental. I want to say it so that all of us would not just sit down here and waste our time. It would also afford the panel to take appropriate steps. He mentioned cases M438/2010 involving one Victoria Folorunso, M200/2010 involving Alhaji Akinsola with the Governor of Oyo State and another one involved Tokyo and the Inspector General of Police. 'Each of these processes is still pending in court. It is a universal law that matters before the court should not be tampered with until they are determined by the court'.
He said it would be outside the power of the panel to allege bias. But, a member of the panel, Mr. Lekan Owolabi said the panel is a fact finding panel to look into the issue of the NURTW mayhem on June 4. 'We can't make any finding on any issue before the competent court of law. At this juncture, Justice Ige clarified that nobody was on trial and that the panel would only make recommendation but cannot take any decision. The retired judge said, 'We make recommendation based on the facts made available to us.'
We are not going to say anybody is guilty. If any matter of bias against the Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Baba Adisa Bolanta is in court, it would not stop us from listening to witnesses.
He then read the terms of reference of the panel to the hearing of the counsel and others at the panel. He said the panel is saddled with the responsibility of investigating the immediate and remote causes of the violent clash, identifying those individuals or groups that precipitated and participated in the crisis, either directly or indirectly, and recommend appropriate sanctions to be imposed on the identified culprits.
The panel would also try to ascertain the number of persons killed or that sustained injuries during the crisis, identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood and assess the cost of damage to personal or public properties during the crisis.,
It is also empowered to investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend measures to stem the illegal flow of such weapons in the state, make appropriate recommendations on how to prevent recurrence, recommend appropriate remedies to the innocent victims of the crisis and to examine any other matters incidental or relevant to the crisis and advise government appropriately.
He explained that the commission would not disrespect the court in its duties
Barrister Doyin Odebowale added to the comments of the chairman of the panel saying the commission would look proffer ways motor parks in the city can be safe for residents of the state, commuters and other people.
From the look of things, observers wonder if the whole exercise would not be a mere jamboree most especially when the factions of the union represent different political interests.
The panel may not achieve much as it would be careful not to touch some issues that are already in court.
The redeployment of the Commissioner of Police in the state, Alhaji Baba Adisa Bolanta who Tokyo had variously accused of partisanship in the crises may change many things. Due to some glaring facts then that the police did not arrest some members of the union loyal to the former governor, Akala, many people in the city pointed accusing fingers at the police especially when it refused to execute the order of the national Industrial Court that reinstated Tokyo as the chairman of the union.
Residents in the state are waiting to see the magic wand that Governor Ajimobi would use to uproot the cause of violence that had caused the people of the state many sleepless nights.