By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
With case file CR:3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/FSARS/VOL.T1/90, dated August 1, 2012, in respect of the matter of the killing of Olaitan Oyerinde, wherein it was reported that a total of 16 witnesses and 18 suspects were interrogated, including Mrs. Funke Oyerinde, Sunday Vanguard presents you a report whose investigation spanned four weeks of rigorous work. It is about the bungling of an investigation, the reasons of which are yet to be properly explained because of the massive incongruity in the report of the investigation. It will shock you.
The controversy is not about to end. Just last week, between Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and Inspector General of Police, M D Abubakar, there was another spat. It is now eight months since suspected bandits shot dead the late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, former Principal Private Secretary to Oshiomhole, at his No. 65, 2nd Ugbor Road residence in Benin City.
Five gangsters, who banged into his apartment, apparently, to steal dollars, clinically shot Oyerinde dead, at about 02.00 hours, May 4, 2012.
Nearly three months after, precisely July 27, 2012, a bosom friend of the slain secretary, and Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Rev. David Ugolor, was arrested by the Nigeria Police (Federal Criminal Investigative Department) in connection with the murder.
The reason was that one of the suspects in police custody confessed they were hired to assassinate Oyerinde by one “David”. Rev. Ugolor was picked up and quizzed by the Police.
Three days after police seized Ugolor, the Department of State Service, DSS, paraded yet another set of suspects, who gave vivid and graphic description of how they killed Oyerinde. It was one robbery operation gone aslew.
A month after the spectacle, September 1, 2012, the police charged all the nine suspects in their custody, including those arrested by SSS, before a Magistrate Court in Benin City. Ugolor was among the suspects. They were all remanded at Oko Prison, near Benin City, awaiting the advice of the Directorate of Public Prosecution, DPP, Edo State.
A duplicate case file in respect of the case was sent from the Oredo Magistrate Court via a letter, dated September 5, reference number, MOR/21/242.
Ugolor has no case to answer— DPP
The DPP legal advice with reference number, 01/s.6712/15, addressed the Deputy Inspector General of Police, “D” Department (FCID), Force Headquarters, Abuja, came on October 29, 2012. Also, the SSS, upon the request of the DPP, forwarded a duplicate case file on its investigation.
The legal advice on the case, FHQ/ABJ/X/SARS/540/2012: Inspector General of Police versus Garba Usman Maisamari, Danjuma Musa, Muritala Usman, Moses Asamah Okoro, Auta Umaru Ali, Umaru Adamu, alias Duna, Rev David Ugolor, Wilfred Iserhienrhien, Hassan Aliyu Babete and Idris Abdulhamid was signed for DPP, Edo State, by one Ade Irehovbude Esq.
It reads: “This office advises that a prima facie case of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and murder is made out against Garba Usman Maisamari, Auta Umaru Ali, Moses Asmah Okoro and Usman Adamu, who all confessed to the crime.
“A prima facie case of receiving robbed property is made out against Hassan Aliyu Babete and Idris Abdulhamid, who both also made confessional statements.
“Whilst Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman, admitted to the crime, we are constrained to observe that the Investigation Report suggests clearly that the said Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman had been in the custody of the Edo State Police Command since 24/04/2012 in respect of a case of unlawful possession of cartridges before the suspects were taken over (by) the FCID, interrogated and reportedly confessed to the incident that took place on 4th of May, 2012. This is evidently incongruous”, the DPP observed.
“With respect to Rev David Ugolor, the allegations against him hinge entirely on the confessional statement of Garba Usman Maisaimari. It is trite law that in the absence of independent evidence, the confession of an accused person is not admissible evidence against a co-accused. Accordingly, as the record stands today, no prima facie case is made out against him. He should be released if still in custody”, the advice concluded.
A case of missing links
The DPP pointed out that in the police investigative report, dated August 1, 2012, it was stated that “one locally made cut to size single barrel gun with one cartridge confirmed by the suspects to have been used in the armed robbery operation at No 65, 2nd Ugbor Road, GRA, Benin City, was traced to Esigie Police Station and retrieved.
The Ministry of Justice, therefore, wondered, how the said exhibit, recovered April 24, 2012 by the Esigie Police Division could have been used during the robbery incident that took place on May 4, 2012, 10 days after.
Exact words of the DPP, “Another incongruity, could a weapon recovered and in possession of the police be confirmed by suspects to have been used for the commission of the offence?”
For the avoidance of doubt, the DPP challenged the police to react to the duplicate case file on the same matter, handed over to it by the DSS with suspects different from those arrested by the police.
Following the legal advice, Ugolor regained freedom, but the police have not publicly reacted to the DPP challenge on the DSS investigation.
This was the state of affairs until, last week, when Governor Oshiomhole, at the inauguration of a ‘Code of Conduct’ for officers and men of Nigeria Police in Abuja, called to question the alleged muddled investigation into the murder of his private secretary.
However, shortly after the Police and SSS came up with contradictory claims on the killers of Oyerinde, some months ago, the governor issued a public statement in which he denounced the investigation by the DIG and his team.
In Abuja, right before the Inspector General of Police, the irate governor called for the sack of the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Force Criminal Investigations Department, Peter Gana, for a shoddy job.
He noted that the Deputy Commissioner of Police who was sent to investigate the case should ordinarily not be wearing a police uniform and urged President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in the matter.
The governor condemned the police for arresting and detaining an innocent human rights activist, rather than going after the culprits, who were eventually arrested by the DSS.
His words: “Mr. IG, I must say I am aggrieved; I am aggrieved over the murder of my private secretary and the way the investigation was trivialized. I am saying this knowing that the Vice President is here representing Mr. President. “My secretary was murdered in cold blood and you dispatched a DIG to supervise that investigation. A DIG is a sufficiently senior officer, next in rank to the IGP.
“They came to Benin and did what Fela (Ransome-Kuti) would have called police magic. In the end, they went for a civil rights activist and charged him with the offence of murder.”
The governor alleged that the DIG conspired with other officers involved in the investigation to shield the killers of Oyerinde, noting that for this ignoble act, they were no longer fit to wear police uniform.
“The DIG Force CID has a case to answer in which case he cannot wear his police uniform. He must be dismissed, the Deputy Commissioner of Police that he used, who claimed that they have done a thorough job, has no business wearing police uniform.
“The weapon that was (claimed to have been) used for the murder was used for armed robbery earlier, recovered by the police and under police custody at the time my secretary was murdered.
“So, the man who murdered my secretary was in police custody, the gun used was in police custody and these are the findings of the police.
“The only conclusion that can be reached is that the police ordered the murder of my private secretary. The officer wrote this in black and white.
“I ask you (IG) to read it. He wrote that he has done a thorough job under a very skillful DIG in charge of Force CID and the sky is their limit. I am asking the Vice President to report to the President that if they do not find the killers of Olaitan, he cannot expect the people of Edo State and all those who know Olaitan, to have confidence in the security agencies. I feel terrible that as a governor, I can’t get justice. If I can’t get justice, then an average Nigerian cannot expect justice and we can’t have justice if we can’t tell the truth.”
Police dismiss gov’s outburst
Responding to Oshiomhole’s tirade, IGP Abubakar, an officer and a gentleman, described Oshiomhole’s position as unfounded, saying only the court could pronounce on the killers. He, however, promised to set up a committee to look at the investigative report of the Federal Criminal Investigation Department.
Why Oshiomhole is acidic
Few days after the investigations carried out by the DSS and Police were noted, August, last year, Governor Oshiomhole called on President Goodluck Jonathan to set up a high-powered panel of inquiry to look into the contradictions.
However, neither the Federal Government nor the police authorities paid heed to his call. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Peter Okhiria, the Edo State Government noted, “The attention of Governor Adams Oshiomhole has been drawn to the contradictory claims by two federal security agencies, namely, the State Security Services and the Police Force over the killing of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, his Principal private Secretary.
While the (DSS) paraded some people who alleged to have confessed to the killing of Comrade Oyerinde on account of armed robbery, the Nigeria Police also said they have in their custody exactly the same number of persons who allegedly confessed to the killing of Comrade Oyerinde.
“Following the murder of Comrade Oyerinde, the Governor gave the security agencies a 14-day ultimatum to find the killers, which he suspected was politically-motivated. Within a few days of his murder, Mr. Governor was informed by the (DSS) in confidence that they had made some progress, having located Comrade Oyerinde’s telephone and those who bought it and eventually using their own skills, they were able to arrest, one after the other, those who have since confessed that they killed Comrade Oyerinde.
“Subsequently, at about the end of June, the (DSS) again, apparently to assure the Governor of the progress made, paraded the suspects before the Governor and he had the opportunity to ask some questions, for about 45 minutes, about the murder and they told him who fired the shot, where they stood, who bought the phone and for how much and they also showed him the weapons used and the amount of money they found which was less than fifty thousand naira.
“From the interface with the suspects paraded by the DSS, the Governor was convinced that they were indeed responsible for the murder of Comrade Oyerinde to which they had confessed. The suspects also repeated to the Governor the confessions they had made to the (DSS) that they were the same gang that made an attempt to attack the State Commissioner for Information, Hon Louis Odion at his residence and their account corroborated that of Hon Odion who narrated to the Governor that ‘it was the vigilance group in his area that scared the attackers away’.
Rev Ugolor, who is at the centre of controversy, Tuesday, in Abuja, also addressed reporters, calling on President Jonathan to constitute an independent committee to review and reconcile the conflicting reports by the DSS and the police in a bid to unmask the killers of his friend, Comrade Oyerinde. He also tasked Jonathan, the National Assembly and the civil society to unravel the mystery behind the controversial police report on the murder, which was at variance with that of the DSS.
His words: “I want Nigerians to challenge the police authorities to tell Nigerians whether it was true that Danjuma Musa and Murtala Usman – the two accused armed robbers are still alive, they are in local prison; whether it was true they were in detention on April 24 and between April 24 – May 24, they were not granted bail. And we know that from the police command to Oyerinde’s house is about one kilometre.
“How did they fly? What happened? Who escorted them to Olaitan’s house? Who brought out the guns that were in police custody since April 24 last year?
Sunday Vanguard’s Findings:
Sunday Vanguard is in possession of the “Police Investigation Report”, reference number, CR:3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/FSARS/VOL.T1/90, dated August 1, 2012, in respect of the matter. A total of 16 witnesses and 18 suspects were interrogated, including Mrs. Funke Oyerinde, wife of the deceased.
Sunday Vanguard waited for four months after we obtained after we obtained the police report to lay hands on the SSS report, which remained hard to pin down. However, with the recent outburst by Oshiomhole, the reports of the independent findings had to be made public.
From the police report, it was clear that the motive of the killers of Comrade Oyerinde was not political. They were simply hoodlums, who found out that he came occasionally to transact business at a local foreign exchange bureau in Benin City. In fact, the agent, who is one of the suspects, was the one that set him up. He recruited the other suspects to rob his client.
Oyerinde owned a double-barrel gun and might have been trying to reach for it, when the hoodlums shot him. Before his death, he had an annoying disagreement with his landlord, Architect Hope Akpo, aged 51 years, over N1.2 million rent for which the landlord petitioned the Secretary to the State Government and Chief of Staff to the Governor.
In fact, the relationship between Oyerinde and the property owner was so terrible that Architect Akpo, who issued him a quit notice and cut off water supply to his apartment, dragged him to the court to recover his property.
Arrest of suspects
The claim of the DSS in its report is quite believable and the police, indeed, arrested some other persons connected with the same crime and the gang that carried it out. One of the suspects arrested by the police, 26-year-old Auta Umaru Ali, a nomad, who hails from Gumi in Gumi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, confessed to the police that he belonged to two robbery gangs. He started robbery in early 2011. The investigation report quoted Ali thus:
“The first robbery gang is made up of Haruna, Ibrahim, Sanda and some other Fulani boys and their area of specialization is armed robbery, along Benin-Lagos Expressway, around By-pass and Benin/Abraka/Obiaruku road. He averred that they usually block the road, stop vehicles and rob passengers of their property, which include telephone, money, gold jewelries, necklaces, etc.
“He identified his second gang of armed robbers as Danjuma Musa, Muritala Usman, Asamah Moses Okoro, alias Auchi boy and himself. He also identified Garba Usman Maisamari, a notorious buyer of stolen goods, as the person who buys all their loots after robbery operations.
He revealed that on May 3 (24 hours before Oyerinde was killed), Danjuma Musa called him on telephone and informed him of an armed robbery operation at GRA, Benin City, that night. He further revealed that Danjuma Musa also asked him to come to Owina Junction, where they usually drink as the take-off point, which he did.
Thirty-three-year-old Umaru Adamu, alias Duna, who claimed to be a dealer in foreign exchange, buyer of stolen goods and an armourer for a robbery gang, declined knowledge of the armed robbery at 2nd Ugbor road. He was arrested in connection with Oyerinde’s murder and admitted that the gun used for the operation was collected from him on May 3, 2012. He also told police that the same gun was returned at about 09.30 hours to him at a petrol filling station, along Ring Road, Benin City. His grandparents hail from Niger Republic.
What is, however, incongruous in the police report is that detectives, who were looking for every available way to tidy up the case, made a fatal blunder in roping Ugolor as mastermind of the murder. Why it came up with the theory is not very clear.
Birds of the same feather
Nonetheless, Ugolor, is a very close friend of the deceased. Their friendship started in 2009 when the latter was appointed private secretary to Oshimohole. Oyerinde was very useful to Ugolor in the activities of his NGO and liaison with the state government. Both of them practically shared the same vision and a day before he was killed, he and the deceased went on a social outing at Madam Serah’s drinking spot in Benin City.
The late Oyerinde dropped Ugolor at his residence before proceeding to his own residence same day and the activist was jolted from his sleep in the early hours of the next day by a phone call from Oyerinde’s wife, informing him that her husband had been shot by bandits. Both Ugolor and Oyerinde’s wife rushed the deceased to the Central Hospital, Benin City, where he later gave up the ghost.
In fact, the late Oyerinde was building his personal house in Benin City at the time of his death and Ugolor is the one supervising the project for him.
Rev Ugolor: Was it a set up?
Forty-two-year-old Ugolor, according to the police report, described his identification by Maisamari “as the mastermind of the dastardly act as blatant, false and wicked”, adding that he had never met the suspect in life, “except at the identification parade.
“He claimed that he has not overtly or covertly requested for any government appointment, not even through Oyerinde and wondered what he will benefit from his death. He posited that as a human rights activist and television programmes resource person, Maisamari must have seen him on television and is now looking for whom to drag into his mess.
He vehemently denied any involvement in the murder of Oyerinde, stating that he has never visited Ring Road for dollar exchange with the deceased in his life, not to talk of gong with a Camry car as late Olaitan does not have a Camry car,” the report added.
Sunday Vanguard investigation showed that Ugolor’s main link to the murder was that 39-year-old Maisamari, born in Bagudo area of Kebbi state, stated, “The job (murder of Oyerinde) was given to him by one David, who promised to pay him N20 million if the job was successfully executed”.
According to the report, “He further stated that the said David paid him an advance payment of N200,000, out of which he gave Danjuma Musa, N100,000. He described David as black in complexion, not too tall, but get body small. He also described him as always wearing a native dress but speaks English language fluently”.
“He stated that he has known David for the past one year and that David usually changed money from him and has bought gold from him once. He also stated that David told him that he wants to take over late Olaitan Oyerinde’s office if he is killed. He also confessed that late Olaitan was trailed twice by the trio of himself, Danjuma Musa and Moses Asamah Okoro in order to know his house as GRA, Benin City.
“He further said that David has not paid the N20 million and each time he called him on phone, he will be saying he is in Abuja and will pay when he comes back. He was not able to give the said David’s telephone number but stated that David calls him with MTN, Glo and Etisalat numbers, but when he lost his phone and did welcome back, he lost David’s numbers.
He admitted informing Danjuma Musa, Moses Asamah Okoro, Muritala Usman and Auta Umaru Ali that the operation was a hired job meant to kill the man in a meeting they held at Owina Junction, Benin”, the police said in the report, signed by Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP Chris O. Ezike, FSSARS, Abuja”, the report continued.
It was palpable that that story of Ugolor as mastermind of the murder is a fabrication as Maisamari admitted masterminding the robbery that led to Oyerinde’s death.
Said the report, “According to him (referring to Maisamari), late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was his customer who changes dollars into naira for him. He recollected the late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde had changed money from him on three occasions- the first time being $500, the second $500 and the third time- $850, which was on 03/05/2012.
According to him, on the second occasion when late Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde came to change money, he telephoned Moses Asamah Okoo to come with his motorcycle and as Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde left, they trailed him to his house at No 65, 2nd Ugbor Road, Benin City.
“He also confessed that on 03/05/2012 when the man came to change money, himself and Moses Asamah Okoro also trailed him, but he ended up in a beer parlour around Adesuwa road area. That they left him to plan the operation. He admitted that he asked Danjuma Musa to contract Muritala Usman and Auta Umaru Ali to meet Moses Asamah Okoro at Owina Junction so that four of them can execute the job successfully. Okoro informed him through telephone when they were to strike and also informed him that the operation had been executed successfully after the operation.
“He confessed that he bought all the items from late Comrade Olaitan’s house which he itemized as two laptop computers, two galaxy telephone handsets, gold jewelries, four blackberry telephone handsets and that he paid a total of N150,000 only advance , remaining N32,000.”
Reading the police report between the lines, it is not difficult to conclude that the suspects interrogated by the detectives were under pressure to admit that Maisamari informed them that somebody, David, promised to pay them N20 million if Oyerinde was killed, but the actual mission was to rob the private secretary.
Like Oyerinde, like Alhaji Ismaila Aliyu
The way Oyerinde was killed on May 4 was the same manner one Alhaji Ismaila Aliyu, a businessperson and foreign exchange dealer from Kebbi State was murdered May 21, 17 days after, by a robbery gang in Benin City. The gang usually trailed people, who carry out foreign exchange transaction, to their homes to steal money from them. Aliyu’s murder was unsung by the media because of his social status.
In Aliyu’s case, a 36-year-old dealer in foreign exchange at No 6 Erie Street, Benin City, who is already in police net, called one of the suspects, Abubakar, arrested in connection with Oyerinde’s murder, to contact other bandits to waylay him and steal the foreign currency that he normally brought home. Danjuma Musa, Moses Asamah Okoro and others went to Aliyu’s house at No 21 Second Ihiogbe Stree, off Wire Road, May 18, and May 21, they trailed him from his office to the house and shot him dead.
Unfortunately, Aliyu was heartlessly murdered, but the gang did not find money with him.
Holes in police report
What made the police report suspicious was its claim on two suspects, Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman. The suspects allegedly confessed that the armed robbery operation of May 4, 2012, which resulted in Oyerinde’s death was carried out by them in conjunction with Auta Umaru and Moses Asamah and that the gun found with them was the same gun used to kill the deceased.
They also told the police, “Garba Usman Maisamari, who fingered Ugolor as mastermind of the murder, “had deep knowledge of the operation and bought all the items that were stolen from the house”.
On page 7 of the 93-page report, the police said, “The interrogation yielded amazing result as both of them confessed that the armed robbery operation of 4th May, 2012 at No 65, 2nd Ugbor road, GRA, Benin City, which led to the death of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was carried out by them …”
The police in the report noted that the two suspects in question – Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman – “have been in Edo Command custody for unlawful possession of cartridges since 24/05/2012…”
However, apparently in a hurry to come up with a list of suspects, police investigators strangely concluded that the same suspects were responsible for the murder of Oyerinde, 10 days after, even at time they were in police custody.
It is surprising that the police authorities did not crosscheck this information because it was on the strength of the alleged confession by the said suspects, who linked Maisamari to the murder, that Ugolor was arrested as the mastermind.
Investigations by Sunday Vanguard showed that in a letter, dated July 18, 2012, entitled, Transfer of Casefile Exhibits’, addressed to the DIG, “D” Department, FCID, Abuja, the Divisional Police Officer, Esigie Police Division, Benin City, CSP, Yakubu Mohammed, handed over the said weapon to the FCID.
According to the letter, “On the 24/04/2012, at about 06.30 hrs, one F/No, 430274, Cpl John Ubogu, attached to Esigie Division, presently on Foreign Peace Mission at East Timor, brought one locally made cut to size pistol and one cartridge to the charge room…
“He stated that he recovered the exhibits at the side of one abandoned vehicle while returning from night duty at about 06.15 hrs. The exhibits were later referred to exhibit keeper for safekeeping. I hereby, transfer/forward one cut-to-size pistol and one cartridge for further investigation, please”.
The two suspects were taken over by FSARS operatives for further interrogation, but the aspect of their report, which categorically stated that the said weapon was used in the Oyerinde murder, is what has cast doubt on the entire investigation.
The DPP saw the ambiguity in the police report and observed thus:
“By a letter, dated 18th July, from the office of the DPO, Esigie Division, Benin City, addressed to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, FCID, Abuja, on “Transfer of Casefiles/Exhibits”, which letter contained in your duplicate case file, an exhibit, to wit; a locally made cut –to- size gun and one cartridge said to have been recovered on 24/04/2012 by the Esigie Police Division, Benin City, were sent to FCID, Abuja.
“This is alleged to be a weapon used during the robbery incident that took place on 4th May, 2012. Another incongruity, Could a weapon recovered and in possession of the Police be confirmed by suspects to have been used for the commission of the offence”.
This inexcusable bungle is why Oshimohole, Ugolor, civil society groups and Nigerians are spitting fire and calling on President Jonathan to unravel the mystery.
It is one riddle in the entire affair, which the police must unknot believably before its report on the Oyerinde murder would be treated as a document worth the paper on which it is printed.