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Assassination of Pa Rewane: When will Justice be done?

On Friday, October 6, 1995, between 8.15 and 8.30 am, five men in a Peugeot 504 car came to the premises of 79~year~old nationalist and one of the founding leaders of the then Action Group, Pa Alfred Rewane at 100, Oduduwa Crescent, G.R.A, Ikeja.

At the gate, they told the gateman that they had a message from Life Flour Mills Sapele, for the chairman, Papa Rewane.  They showed a paper which they claimed they wished to deliver to him.   The gateman, let them in.

Having gained entrance into the compound, they proceeded to the front door which was shut but not secured.   They opened the door and entered the inner~room, where they met some of the domestic staff.  Challenged by the staff, they replied that they had some court processes from Warri to serve on Pa Rewane.

While this was going on, one of the domestic staff was going upstairs to inform Pa Rewane of the presence of the visitors when he was followed by three of the visitors.  They were already within reach of Pa Rewane‘s room when he appealed to them to wait there.

Meanwhile, the other two assailants had held Miss Rewane who confronted them and her sister captive,  led them into a room and locked them up.  By then, the three assailants had entered Pa Rewane‘s bedroom upstairs where they met him with a steward.  On seeing them with a pointed gun, Pa Rewane asked what they wanted.

Rather than replying, they beat up the steward, shoved him under the bed and covered him with a cloth.  At this juncture, Pa Rewane asked them again what they wanted.  One of the assailants allegedly spoke in a language which the steward assumed to be Ishekiri.  Thereafter, the steward heard a gun shot.  Then the assailants disappeared.

The steward then emerged from under the bed to discover that Pa Rewane had been shot and was in a pool of blood.  He raised an alarm.

A steward ran in from another part of the house.  He then freed members of the household who had been locked up by the assailants.  One of Pa Rewane‘s daughters who had heard the gunshot went to her father‘s bedroom and on seeing the condition, began to shout, “they have shot him, they have shot him” The domestic staff rushed upstairs and helped to carry Pa Rewane downstairs, into his waiting car, rushed him to hospital, where the Doctors said that he had died before reaching the hospital.  It was later discovered that the assassins took away two brief cases which
Pa Rewane had intended to take to the office.

Immediately after this incident, the then Inspector~General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie directed the federal anti~robbery section of the Force Criminal Investigations Department, Adeniji~Adele to liaise with the Lagos State Police Command to hunt down Pa Rewane‘s killers.

Following this development, five suspects said to have participated actively in the murder were arrested initially while a Peugeot 504 suspected to have been used by the assailants was recovered in Benin where it was packed few days later.

Police said the suspects were picked up in Edo and Delta States following a surveillance mounted in Lagos, Edo and Delta States by the operatives handling the case.

Later, two domestic staff of Pa Rewane Lucky Igbinova and Ayuba( gate men ), were also arrested.   Earlier, plain clothed detectives whisked away two men to Area F, of the state Police command in Ikeja.  At the last count, seven suspects were arrested.

They included; Lucky Igbinovia (25),  his gate man, Elvis Iremuna(27),  his former driver, Sylvester Iyalese (27), Saturday Ogbeide (25), Ola Obanubo (32), SundayObanubo (22)  and Effiong Elemi (29).  Those who were said to be on the run were:, Ales Adejumo, Ojo Obanubi, Abiodun Idubor, Ovbamkan Ohazeee and Tajudeen Adegbenro.

The suspects were subsequently charged to court on January 3, 1996.  In fact, the total number of suspects charged to court was eight but only seven were actually arraigned.  The Police could not explain the whereabout of the eight suspect, though he was arrested and his statement obtained.    The case came up for hearing during the tribunal era.

Before this time, four of the seven suspects had died in Police custody while awaiting trial.  In January 1997, the then Inspector~Genral of Police, Ibrahim Coomaassie was quoted as saying that the remaining three suspects had jumped bail but the suspects quickly stated otherwise through their attorneys.

At a stage, it was also reported that the police went to the tribunal to say that all the suspects had died.  Fortunately for the suspects, the Lawyer engaged by one of the surviving suspects, Effiong Elemi~Edu was in court that day to move a motion for bail.

He quickly informed the court that the surviving  suspects were alive adding also that four of the suspects had died under questionable circumstance while in police custody.  The court then ordered the police to produce the three in court in 1998.

The suspects also alleged that Police authorities later claimed that they escaped from prison custody.  The tribunal could however not conclude the case before General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over government to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

The case then started afresh (de novo) before Justice Adesanya.  In fact, close relations to the late Statesman had cause to publicly disown the police robbery theory because the suspects were charged for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Initially, police added a murder charge but for reasons best known to them, they dropped the charge as the case progressed.    Earlier in the year 2000, the state Counsel brought a letter to the trial Judge purportedly written by the Attorney General ordering the court to halt trial that new facts have emerged.  That the case was not robbery as being claimed by the police.

Consequently, the trial was discontinued as Justice Adesanya proceeded on retirement in June 8. 2001.  Due to pressure from Lawyers to the suspects, the case was re~assigned to Justice Oyebanji but at that time, she had not been allocated toa court.  The then Chief Judge was duely informed and he ordered that the case be re~assigned to another Judge.

This time, to Justice A.O. Ogunmenkan, who for over four years, was hearing only trial within trial of alleged confessional statements.  Lawyers to the suspects alleged that Justice Ogunmenkan refused to hear arguments from the suspects on the statements that they copied, even when the suspects produced the copy of the original statement written by the police and copied by the suspects.

By 18th December when the suspects first appeared before Justice Ogunmenkan, the state made an oral application withdrawing the charge against the suspects citing lack of evidence to prosecute the matter.  The Judge then requested a letter to that effect and subsequently adjoined for three weeks.

The state came back at the end of the expiration of the adjournment and told the court they intend to continue the trial. It was rumoured that some faceless individuals went to tell the state that the suspects will sue them if they eventually withdraw the charge due to the number of years they spent, awaiting trial.

When the case was finally opened, the state could not call eyewitness but relied solely on police witness who were not there when the incident occurred. When the state sought to tender the confessional statements in evidence as exhibits, Lawyer to the suspects objected to it.   This led to some legal gymnastics known as trial within trial.  The suspects were subsequently tried and the court ruled against them.

Based on some inconsistencies noticed by their Lawyers, they called for adjournment to enable them call a handwriting expert, a request which was turned down.   Other legal issues that arose made the Judge angry and she voluntarily  withdrew from the case after four years.

By next adjournment in 2006, after the case was transferred to Justice Nwaka, the state has been able to call only one witness, who told the court that he did not obtain the alleged confessional statement, but merely as a senior police officer, endorsed it.

Since then, the suspects have not seen the Judge, as the court hardly sit each time the suspects go to court.   Even when suspects noticed the snail speed with which the case was moving, they sought for bail but it was not granted.

At a stage, the suspects appealed tp the Chief Judge for the case to be transferred to another Judge who will be conducting accelerated hearing.  It was subsequently transferred to Justice O.A. Williams of court 35, Lagos High court.

The suspects appeared before the new Judge for the first time on October 28, 2008 and their lawyer confirmed that they saw in Justice Willaims, a Judge who is bent in conducting the matter speedily.

That is exactly where the suspects are till date after clocking 14 years at the Kirikiri maximum prison, awaiting trial over th murder of Pa Rewane.  The questions on the lips of concerned Nigerians are; When are the suspects going to get justice?, When will the trial end and how long will we wait to get real killers of Pa Rewane?


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