BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
•They are after my life-Ugolor …•I am still waiting for IGP to produce assailants – Oshiomhole
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Petition, headed by Hon.Uzo Azubuike, will, on Wednesday, hear the petition written by a Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Edo State against the police over the killing of the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, and the subsequent arrest and detention of his bosom friend, Rev. David Ugulor, in connection with the murder.
The Conference of Non Governmental Organizations (CONGOS), Edo State had accused the police of cover-up and professional misconduct in the investigation of the murder.
Oyerinde was murdered on May 4, 2012 at the heat of the governorship election campaign in Edo State, but investigations into the matter have been dogged by controversy following the parade of six persons alleged to have killed Oyerinde by the Department of State Security Services and another set of suspects by the police. Ugolor, the Executive Director of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), w
s detained in prison for 41 days after one of the alleged killers, Garba Usman Maisamari, paraded by the police investigative team led by DCP Chris Ezike, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS) Abuja, allegedly fingered him. Maisamari allegedly claimed that one ‘David’ had paid N200,000 out of the N20million agreed by the duo for the assassination of Oyerinde.
But prior to the identification parade done at the Edo State Police Command, one Moses Jolugbo of SARS allegedly took Ugolor’s picture for an undisclosed reason. However, a Benin High Court, headed by Justice E.A.Edigin, on the 16th of August, 2012, declared the detention of Ugolor as unconstitutional and ordered the police to unconditionally release the environmental activist.
In addition, the court ordered the police to pay N5million as damages to him. Another application for bail for Ugulor was filed before Justice P.I.Imoedeme of Benin High Court on the 11th of September 2012. The judge, in his ruling, declared that the materials relied upon by the police were not sufficient enough in such “a serious case that attracts capital punishment/ death penalty”. While admitting Ugolor to bail, Imoedeme said that ‘to refuse the application is to punish the applicant for an offence in respect of which there is no legal evidence implicating him”.
The police, nonetheless, arraigned the 10 suspects including Ugolor before an Oredo Magistrate Court, Benin City on the 27th of September, 2012, for the offences of conspiracy, armed robbery and murder of Oyerinde. Magistrate F.O.Idiake, who presided over the matter, ordered that the case be taken to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for advice.
The DPP report exonerated Ugolor from complicity in the murder and observed that the suspects paraded by the police were already in the custody of the police since the 24th of April, 2012 in respect of a case of unlawful possession of cartridges far before Oyerinde was murdered on the 4th of May, 2012.
The DPP report observed also: “The locally made cut to size single barrelled gun with a cartridge allegedly used by the supects for killing Oyerinde was in custody of Esigie Police Station, Benin City at the time Oyerinde was killed because the gun had been used for a different crime by the suspects far before Oyerinde was killed and recovered by the police on the 24th of April, 2012”.
On his part, Oshiomhole cut his holidays short to return to Nigeria on the 16th of August 2012, and expressed concern over the two contradictory reports on the murder by the SSS and the police. However, the governor commended the SSS investigation while he punctured the claim by the police to have the real killers of Oyerinde, accusing the force of alleged attempt to muddle up the investigations.
According to him, in an advertorial dated Friday 17, 2012 in Vanguard, “ after listening to the briefing of the DCP, I came to the conclusion that there were several inconsistencies, in particular the alleged involvement of David Ugolor who is unarguably the most prominent civil society activists in Edo state and a well known friend of Comrade Oyerinde.
The DCP said they have call logs of Rev. Ugolor and when I asked if the claim of regular phone contacts between the suspect and Rev.Ugulor had been established, the DCP said he had received the call log of Rev.Ugolor and was yet to verify that of the other suspects who implicated him. In my view, the police investigation team under the DCP is purely engaged in acts of mischief in a futile attempt to shield the real murderers of Comrade Oyerinde. It is now up to the police to prove otherwise and they are duty bound to do so”.
But the police, in a report sent to the House of Representatives Committee on Petitions, and signed by DCP Chris Ezike, debunked the allegation that two of the suspects arrested in connection with the murder were already in police custody when Oyerinde was murdered.
The police insisted that “suspect Danjuma Musa and Murtala Usman were arrested on the 24th of May, 2012 and not 24th April, 2012. They were arrested by good Nigerians and handed over to the Divisional Police Officer, Oba Market Benin City who subsequently handed them over to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Edo State Police Command on the same offence of unlawful possession of cartridges”.
The police added: “The petitioners also posited that the gun used for the murder of Oyerinde was earlier used for armed robbery and recovered by the police. and that by police record this gun was already in police custody when the murder took place. Again, this is just simplistic and misleading. The four suspects who robbed and murdered Oyerinde used three guns for the operation and took away one double barrel gun from the deceased residence”.
However, Oshiomhole, last Tuesday, while receiving the new Commissioner of Police in Edo State, called on the Inspector General of Police to produce the real killers of Oyerinde while he expressed confidence of the House of Representatives to uncover the truth as it hears the matter on Wednesday.
According to Oshiomhole, “I cannot pretend, I remain aggrieved and I believe it’s a shame, a national embarrassment that a Governor can’t get justice. If a Governor can’t get justice, what is the hope of a tomato seller, what is the hope of a road-side mechanic, what is the hope of an okada rider? The Police will not rest, I will not rest until the police get the killers of Olaitan”. The governor noted that the police must recognise that they have a duty to protect the citizens.
“All of us must recognise that we are trustees of the Nigerian people. We must earn the position that we are privileged to occupy. Anywhere I see a police officer, I will keep saying it, you must produce who killed Olaitan and explain why they bungled the investigations. I have said it to the IG, I have said to the President and if I have the opportunity I will say it to the UN”. Oshiomhole explained that his insistence on the police to produce Olaitan’s killers is to entrench the rule of law, noting:”