By Dayo Johnson
THE family of a 24 year old motorcycle operator, popularly known as Okada rider, Benjamin Okoli, who was brutally murdered five months ago by a Prison warder in the premises of a court in Akure, has cried out over alleged conspiracy by security operatives in the state, to sweep the matter under the carpet.
They alleged that the identity of the killer prison warder is still shrouded in secrecy by the security operatives five months after Benjamin was gruesomely murdered. Also, an attempt to seek justice in court, according to the family has always been frustrated by security operatives who may have “deliberately closed the case” because the killer is one of them.
They, however, went spiritual saying that the killer would know no peace until he is brought to book and made to pay for the dastardly act. Benjamin was shot at close range at the premises of Olukayode Magistrate Court after he was re-arrested for allegedly trying to escape while his lawyer was perfecting his bail documents.
The family told SouthWest Voice that “we foresee a conspiracy by the Olokuta prison authority and by extension the Nigeria Prison Service to sweep the matter under the carpet.” Benjamin’s offence, according to his family, was that he reportedly contravened the state government’s order which temporarily suspended the operation of commercial motorcycles in Akure, the state capital.
SouthWest Voice gathered that the deceased was arrested by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps,NSCDC, officials along Arakale road in the Akure metropolis after he had finished the days’ job. Reports had it he had gone to the area to buy fuel ahead of the next day’s business when he was picked up by officials of the NSCDC, who reportedly were acting on the orders of the state government following their protest and destruction of government properties and structures.
The alleged refusal of the late Benjamin, who was a floor tiler, but occasionally operated the Okada business to settle those who arrested him, landed him in deeper trouble as he was handed over to the Police. His problem was compounded when his matter was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCII) of the Nigeria Police. He was reportedly locked up for 10 days when he could not meet the demands of his interrogators.
The late Benjamin was, however, arraigned at the Olukayode Magistrate Court on August 5, last year. Speaking with SouthWest Voice, brother to the deceased, Emmanuel, said that Benjamin was a victim of extral-judicial killing.
Emmanuel said “the lawyer we engaged was able to secure his bail based on stringent condition and that was what we were trying to sort out when my brother tried to escape. His attempt to escape, I think, was a fallout of the inhuman treatment he had all through his illegal detention at Olokuta Medium Prison, prior to his arraignment in court by the Police.”
Emmanuel said when his escape attempt failed, he was re-arrested and brought to the court premises. “This was after he was beaten mercilessly by the security operatives in the court premises. Some minutes later, we heard some gun shots right there and that was the last we saw or heard of our brother”, he explained.
He said the suspected killer and his colleagues rushed his brother to the state specialist hospital after he was shot. Benjamin, according to him, was pronounced dead by the time he got to the hospital.
His corpse was later dumped in the morgue.
The brother lamented that “we were forced to cough out N42,000 for the autopsy after which we had to raise another money for his burial in Kogi state”. Emmanuel said that it has been difficult to get the killer warder to tell the world why he shot Benjamin at close range and in cold blood even after he was re-arrested.
He alleged that all efforts to ensure that justice was done in the last five months had always been frustrated by the prison authorities who had continued to shield the identity of the killer of his brother. He lamented that life had not remained the same for the family as the deceased was the breadwinner.
Meanwhile, the deceased family through a lawyer, Orlu Mills have sent a petition to the Ondo State Police Commissioner, Mike Ogbodu. Threatening to seek justice in the law courts, the family of the deceased have vowed to pursue the case to a logical conclusion.
Mills said: “Information at our disposal showed that the Warder who shot Benjamin was just a trigger happy cop as he was not among those who pursued him in the initial place. We are aware the Police have commenced investigation on the matter and have requested the prison authorities to hand over the warder to no avail. We foresee a conspiracy by the Olokuta prison authority and by extension the Nigeria prison service to sweep the matter under the carpet. There must be an end to impunity, and extra judicial killings if this country must progress. Nobody is above the law.”
Police, Prison Service react
When contacted, spokesperson for the Nigeria Prison Service, Ondo State Command, Tunde Ogundare said that the matter was still under investigation Ogundare added that appropriate action would be taken after a thorough investigation by the prison service. The State Police command equally assured that the matter would not be swept under the carpet. Spokesman of the state Police Command, Femi Joseph, told SouthWest Voice that the matter was still under investigation.
Though the late Okada operator had been buried in Kogi State, his home town, the family has pleaded with the Police authorities not to allow their son die in vain. They said that only justice would assuage the loss of their breadwinner.