The police and the State Security Service, the two security agencies investigating the murder of late Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Secretary to the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, are holding two different sets of suspects, a development that has set off speculations that investigations into the murder would most likely be bungled.
While the Edo Police Command has some suspects, including a human rights activist in custody, the SSS is holding an entirely different set of suspects (which it has labeled armed robbers) at its Abuja headquarters.
The development appears to vindicate claims by critics that Nigerian security agencies were too uncoordinated to be effective.
Last Friday, a team of armed operatives of the Federal special anti-robbery squad (SARS) stormed the office of a Benin City-based rights activist, David Ugolor, a close friend and associate of the late Oyerinde, and arrested him after the police claimed that one of the suspects arrested in connection with the murder had mentioned one “DAVID” as his sponsor.
Before taking him away, along with some items, the police team had also ransacked Mr. Ugolor’s private home, holding every occupant hostage throughout the over three hours duration the operation lasted.
The police had claimed one of the suspects in its custody had, on interrogation, named Mr. Ugolor, who is the Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a vocal environmental and human rights non-government organisation, as the man who gave him N200,000 as part payment for an agreed N20million price to hire late Oyerinde’s killers.
But during cross examination the suspect reportedly could not remember the exact location the transaction took place, neither did he know the way to Mr. Ugolor’s office, house address nor his cell phone, apart from the mental picture of him always appearing on television to criticise government.
Just as friends and associates of Mr. Ugolor in the civil society declared a day of action in Benin City, Abuja, Lagos and other parts of the country to protest his continued detention and demand his immediate release, the State Security Service (SSS) came up with a twist that highlights the palpable lack of coordination among the country’s security agencies in the handling of crime investigations.
According to the SSS, contrary to claims by the police that hired assassins killed the late governor’s aide, the killing was by armed robbers.
Parading the suspected killer robbers, none of whom included the man that claimed Mr. Ugolor hired him to do the killing, the spokesperson of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said the murder was the outcome of a robbery operation that went awry.
According to Ms Ogar, it was a careless statement by the late Oyerinde’s security guard that caused the criminals to pull the deadly trigger.
“Careless statements made by Ali Ihade, the security guard of the late Oyerinde, at various times about his master’s position in government, attracted the attention of the prime suspect, Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullahi,” Ms Ogar told reporters in Abuja.
She named the suspects as Mohammed Abdullahi, Raymond Origbo, Chikezie Edeh (who claimed to be a deportee from France), Saidu Yakubu (aka Imam), Sani Abubakar and Hassan Bashiru.
Ms. Ogar listed some of the items stolen from the deceased to include four Blackberry phones, one ipad, two galaxy tab pads, one laptop, a wedding ring, and an unspecified sum of money belonging to late Oyerinde’s brother-in-law, Adeyinka Oletubo.
According to the SSS deputy director, three of the suspects were directly responsible for the murder, while the others are associates who are “habitual buyers of stolen items.”
“Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was murdered in cold blood by the trio of Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullahi, Raymond Onajite Origbo, and Chikezie Edeh,” she said.
“On the day of the robbery, Abdullahi specifically instructed other gang members to tie up Ihade before they entered Comrade Oyerinde’s residence so that Ihade will not see his face.
Ms. Ogar explained that Mr. Oyerinde was shot and killed by the prime suspect, Mohammed Abdullahi, when the deceased ran into his bedroom and attempted to go underneath his bed.
“Abdullahi said he believed Comrade Oyerinde was reaching out for a gun under the bed and therefore shot him,” she said.
She said the weapons used in the robbery operation, comprising three guns, have been recovered, while the suspects would be handed over to the police for prosecution.
But Tunde Akanni, a relative of the late activist, says the parallel investigative reports by the SSS and the police “clearly shows that the entire security network in this country is a total mockery”.
“It means no one is save in this country if the agencies paid by the same government could be parading two different sets of culprits for the same crime,” Mr. Akanni, a lecturer at the Lagos State University said.
“There are lots of missing gaps and we just don’t know whose story to believe,” he added.