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Saraki, Offa armed robbers and the law

By Olukayode Majekodunmi

UNDER normal circumstances, one would dismiss the recent police invitation of Bukola Saraki, the Senate President as one of the unfolding political drama where the police as presently headed by Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris has been shown to be an active participant. That is if it were an isolated incident. But it becomes troubling as it appears to be a pattern of onslaught against perceived opponents of the President and/or his allies. In recent times, there was the reported invasion of Kaduna State NUJ Secretariat by political thugs allegedly under the watch of the Police to attack Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi who are known adversaries of Governor El-Rufai, a foremost backer of President Muhammadu Buhari. Shortly after, the Police invited  same Shehu Sani for alleged incrimination in criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide by a suspect in custody. There was the celebrated gestapo onslaught on Senator Dino Melaye which earned the IGP and the Police notoriety the world over. Typically, Senator Melaye is engaged in turf battle with Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who, like Governor El-Rufai, is a frontline Buharist.

The  IGP recently  had a celebrated faceoff with the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when he wantonly and with ignominy refused several invitations from the  Upper House to answer questions about the state of insecurity in the country. He was reported to have said that his refusal to honour previous summons by the Senate was  because he found no reason to do so, having learnt that the invitation was “a deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting, unfortunate and mischievous” on the part of senators. This culminated in the Senate declaring the IGP as unfit for public office.

Now, the Senate President has been invited for what the Police has once again called criminal indictment by five suspected gangsters involved in the April 5 bank robbery in Offa, Kwara State. Five of the suspects, according to the Police, confessed that they were political thugs used by the Senate President and Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. It was also the case of the Police that the five gang leaders further confessed during investigation that they are political thugs under the name ‘Youth Liberation Movement, a.k.a ‘Good Boys’ and that the boys admitted having been sponsored with firearms, money and operational vehicles by Senator Saraki and Governor Ahmed. The Senate President and the Governor have both denied the allegations. Saraki through his spokesman described the invitation as “part of the plan to abuse the criminal investigation process aimed at intimidating and overawing the legislature, thereby obstructing it from doing its work.”

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki

From evidence disclosed by the Police and the exculpatory statements of the ringleader of the robbery gang, one can safely posit that the linkage of the Senate President or the Governor of Kwara State to the acts of the armed robbers who invaded Offa is tenuous. This conclusion is purely based on extant law and not emotion. From experience, what the Police often takes as confession can hardly pass through legal scrutiny in any court. Confession is a question of law and not dictated by what the Police or the IGP would want us to take as confession. In any case, it is also trite that confessions are admissible in evidence only against the persons who make them. Unless and except the Senate President or the Kwara State Governor admits or concurs with the alleged confessional statements made to the Police, it is minutely valuable in criminal proceedings against any person other than the maker.

Let us take a critical look at the comment of the alleged leader of the gang. He was asked of their relationship with Saraki and the Governor of Kwara State. He responded that they do what he called ‘Political arrangement and mobilisation for them.’ He was further asked the source of their weapon, he responded that it was one dismissed Policeman by name Michael who provided them with weapons used. He confirmed that he was given the vehicle used in the operation by his “Excellency.” Most importantly, he said neither the Senate President nor Kwara State Governor sent them for robbery operation but that they were political thugs to both the Senate President and the Governor.

It can be safely said that there was commission of offence of armed robbery by the persons apprehended by the Police who have openly confessed to their crimes. This is taken to be true because the most important ingredient of armed robbery is to be armed with any firearms or offensive weapon. What is yet to be known is the involvement of Saraki and the State Governor. If the only link between the suspect and Saraki is the statement made by the ring leader of the thugs, one can conclude that the Police has got this very wrong in this case.  The Police is trying everything to play  to the gallery of unlearned minds as far as this Offa robbery incident is concerned. They have gone a step farther to state that some of those arrested attended the wedding ceremony of Saraki’s daughter.

However, for the Senate President and Kwara State Governor to be directly involved in this case, it must be shown that they knew they were robbers and that they provided them with instruments to perform their operation as robbers. The fact that cars were given out as act of political patronage to party faithful cannot by any stretch of imagination be used to ascribe culpability to the Senate President and Kwara Governor.

A cursory examination of Section 7 of the Criminal Code  relating to criminal liabilities of parties to an offence is apposite at this juncture. The following persons are deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and  guilty of the offence: – a. Every person who does the act or makes the mission which constitutes the offence; b. Every person who does or omits to do any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence,   c. Every person who aids another person in committing the offence; d. Any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence.

From the provisions of S.7(c) above, there might be temptation to link either Saraki or Governor of Kwara to the offence under consideration. That has also been sufficiently cleared from the press interview of the accused. He said the car was given to him for his work as one in charge of mobilisation and arrangement. The car was not given to them to be used for robbery operation.

To understand what section 7(c) says, we can take a quick excursion into the Supreme Court’s decision in IYARO V. STATE. The appellant and another were charged with armed robbery. The appellant used his taxi cab to facilitate the commission of the crime in that he conveyed his passengers to what appeared to be a prearranged spot and stopped the car for no apparent reason. He gave a signal and five men emerged and robbed the ladies seated in the taxi of their valuables while the appellant sat and watched. The robbers went away when they thought they had finished the job. He signalled to the robbers, which indicated that there was still another victim. The robbers promptly returned and finished the job. He promptly took off  when a crowd gathered in response to the cries of the victims. He was convicted for aiding and abetting.

Can we say the Senate President and the Governor of Kwara State have same intention with any or all the suspects presently in Police custody to commit the act they committed? The most plausive answer should be No. This is based on what the suspect said to journalists at their parade. One cannot determine the use to which the recipent of a gift would put it to as the car gift to the gang leader has shown.

Those who have had dealings with the Nigerian Police as a State Prosecutor or even defence counsel would not be surprised by the press statement of the Force talking about confession as if lawyers do not know how these are extracted by the Police. If this can happen to Senators Shehu Sani, Sulaiman Hunkuyi, and Dino Melaye,  the escalation to the Senate President and by extension to the Governor of Kwara State follows a predictable pattern of persecution and witchunt. This is more so as the Senate President had raised alarm of plot by the Police orchestrated by the IGP to frame him using “confessions” by cultists arrested in Kwara State.

transferred to Police headquarters, Abuja. The Police beat a retreat due to the backlash and suggested that the Senate President was crying wolf where there was none. The arrest of the Offa Armed Robbers offered the Police another bite at the cherry so to say., it is my most humble suggestion that the reform of any institution in Nigeria should start with the Nigeria Police. It is instructive that the instruments of state should not be deployed to target and persecute perceived adversaries of the appointor of the Inspector General of Police. Police prosecution and investigation should not be triggered mainly on account of political dissent. The police should not be an instrument of oppression. Unfortunately, it is history repeating itself reminiscent of the forgettable incidents in the first Republic when Local and Native Authority, the purveyors of the present Nigerian Police routinely frame up and prosecute political adversaries of their appointors. A case of who pays the piper dictates the tune.

It is the view of the writer that the undue or unwarranted escalation of the unfortunate Offa Robbery with a view to incriminate the President of the Senate by the Police is a joke taken too far.

 


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