How Nigeria police staged suspects in Oshiomhole’s aide’s murder

Adams Oshiomhole
Edo Governor, Adams Oshiomhole

New documents show how SSS, state prosecutor tore police probe of Oshiomhole’s aide’s murder apart.

At least two suspects paraded by the police in last year’s killing of Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary to the Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, were staged; same for the weapons police claimed were used for the crime.

The two suspects had earlier been arrested by the police for illegal possession of firearms on April 24, 2012, and were in custody of the Edo State Police on May 4, 2012, the night the attack on Mr. Oyerinde occurred, reports outlining multi-agency investigations into the crime have shown.

PREMIUM TIMES obtained a document proffering legal advice from the office of the Edo State Public Prosecutor, reminding the police of the presumed status of those accused by the police of committing the murder.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, is tasked with supervising the trial of suspects where culpability is established, and offering legal counsel to facilitate diligent prosecution. It also retains records of past and ongoing cases in the state.

The DPP letter

The October 29, 2012 letter, served on the Deputy Inspector General, DIG, of Police in charge of the murder investigations, Peter Gana, advised the police that two of the four suspects listed for the crime- Murtala Usman and Danjuma Musa- were due to have been in police cell, alongside the weapons, on the date of the crime.

The letter, signed by one Ade Irehovbude for the Director of Public Prosecution in Edo State, dismissed as “incongruous” police claims that the arrested suspects were truly behind Mr. Oyerinde’s killing.

“Could a weapon recovered and in possession of the police be confirmed by the suspects to have been used for the commission of the offence,” the office queried at a point in the letter, citing previous records.

The letter underlined the inconsistencies of the findings claimed by the police in the murder probe, discrepancies that have triggered allegations that police investigators have worked more to shield, than expose the killers. Mr. Oshiomhole has been most vociferous in that claim.

“In my view, the police investigating team under the deputy commissioner of police is purely engaged in acts of mischief in a futile attempt to shield the real murderers,” Mr. Oshiomhole said in a statement in August.

“It is now up to the police to prove otherwise, and they are duty-bound to do so,” the governor added.

The allegations have found weight in the contradictions pointed in separate investigation by the State Security Service, SSS, and concerns raised by the state prosecutor’s office.

PREMIUM TIMES has also exclusively obtained the report detailing the SSS investigation of the case.

While the police say four persons took part in the operation, the SSS, in its report, names three.

Separate accounts

Police account names Murtala Usman, Moses Okoro, Auta Ali and Danjuma Musa as the assailants who breached Mr. Oyerinde’s security that night, accessed his apartment, and shot him thrice before stealing his personal effects.

While Danjuma, a 23-year-old man from Kamba in Kebbi State, remained at the gate with a bound guard, Auta Ali manned the bedroom window, and the other two operated the interior of the building. It was Messrs. Ali and Usman who fired at Mr. Oyerinde, the police claimed in its report.

But quoting past police records and investigation, the state prosecutor’s office, said Messrs. Usman and Danjuma were due to have been in police custody.

“While Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman also confessed to the crime, we are constrained to observe that the investigation report suggests clearly that the said Danjuma Musa and Muritala had been in the custody of the Edo state police command since 24/04/12, in respect of a case of unlawful possession of cartridges before the suspects were taken over by the FCID, interrogated and reportedly confessed to this incident that took place on the 4th of May, 2012. This is evidently incongruous,” the office said in the letter to DIG Gana.

As with the state prosecutor’s office, investigation by the SSS led elsewhere. None of the men mentioned by the police was involved, the service said. The attackers were three, namely Mohammed Abdullahi, Raymond Origbo and Edeh Chikezie.

The service did not provide details of their locations during the operation, but said the three men agreed Mr. Abdullahi was the man who fired the shots that killed the governor’s former aide.

Both agencies admitted that their indictments on the suspects were achieved not through forensic examinations, implying no fingerprint links were established, but routine confessions.

However, the links were established through tracing the stolen phones from the buyers to the sellers, they claimed.

As with the police, the SSS adjudged the attack as having involved robbery, yet the agencies arrested different sets of suspected buyers of the stolen goods, more than a dozen men who purportedly purchased the phones, Blackberrys and IPADs stolen from late Mr. Oyerinde’s house.

In its report, the police said the locally-made “cut to size single barrel gun with one cartridge”, confirmed as having been used during the operation, was traced to Esigie Police Station in Benin, and retrieved.

In the letter, the prosecutor’s office noted the same weapon had earlier been recovered by the police station on April 24, 2012, less than two weeks before Mr. Oyerinde’s death, and forwarded to Abuja by the Divisional Police Officer of the station, through a July 18 letter.

While the police spoke of an assassination, the SSS said the operation was an armed robbery gone awry.

The suspected shooter claimed he fired not to kill Mr. Oyerinde, but to scare him, and that they had chosen their target for the operation from unwitting comments by Mr. Oyerinde’s guard who spoke about his affluence, the SSS said.

 SSS sees no friction

Despite the seeming friction, spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, said such insinuations were media misrepresentations of the relationship between the two agencies.

Apart from the differences in the operational mandates of the two agencies, the SSS does not get involved in assassination or robbery cases, except where there are insinuations that they are being masterminded by the government.

“There is absolutely no conflict between the roles of the police and the SSS. Whatever insinuations are mere media misrepresentations,” Mrs. Ogar said.

Mrs. Ogar recalled that the incident occurred at the peak of plans towards Edo elections, with accusations and counter-accusations across the political parties.

She said the involvement of the agency was to investigate the allegations, which was negatively impacting the integrity of the state; and when it was established that it was “robbery gone awry”, the suspects were promptly handed over to the police.

Working through the case, arguably one of Nigeria’s most embarrassing and intrigues-filled homicide cases in years, and deciding on a believable version of how Mr. Oyerinde died has proved daunting for a public that barely anticipated answers for the crime nonetheless.

 Reps open probe

This week, starting Wednesday, a House of Representatives hearing could help sift the facts from organised falsehood.

The House ad hoc committee is to review the various reports from the police, the SSS, and the Edo State Public Prosecutor’s office with accounts from the last two that implicitly accused the police of lying and distorting the facts.

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, has consistently rejected allegations of the force’s complicity in the murder, describing such insinuations by Mr. Oshiomhole, last month, as “baseless”.

But the documents examined by PREMIUM TIMES shed light into how a supposedly clear-cut crime, literally, became convoluted by untidy investigations that left loose ends, and varied conclusions.

 Surprising suspect

On the night he was murdered, Mr. Oyerinde was sleeping in his sitting room.

After the gunmen successfully broke in, the former labour unionist awoke, huddled with his wife in the bedroom, secured the door, and prepared for the worst.

When the shots rang out, he had no way of escaping. The police said one of the shots, somehow, came from within the room, and another two that turned out fatal, from outside the window. With the three strikes on target, Mr. Oyerinde slumped. It was Auta Ali, who fired the fatal shots, police report states.

The police claimed the attack was sponsored by a Benin City-based rights activist and campaigner, David Ugolor, a close friend of Mr. Oyerinde, who was allegedly keen on ousting the former principal secretary to realise his ambition to assume his position.

The report acknowledges Mr. Ugolor and Mr. Oyerinde were together the previous night before the attack, and that it was Mr. Ugolor, who was first reached by Mr. Oyerinde’s wife, Funke, after her husband was shot.

A surprising suspect, Mr. Ugolor’s arrest and prolonged detention despite a court order mandating his bail, helped fuel the distrust the police case was oozing.

The police said investigations showed Mr. Ugolor had paid N200, 000 of the total N20 million pledge he made to the attackers to rid of Mr. Oyerinde.

A key suspect, who allegedly coordinated the deadly raid, Garba Maisamari, also secured a positive physical identification of the purported sponsor for the police, the report states.

However, Mr. Maisamari failure to provide further evidences supporting a supposed knowledge of a business client, having no idea of Mr. Ugolor’s telephone numbers, residences or car type, gave a lie to the report.

Mr. Ugolor, who is the Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has denied the allegation. But the allegation left even more room for suspicion against the police work.

Despite earlier claims of securing phone call logs proving contacts between Mr. Ugolor and Mr. Oyerinde’s assailants, potentially the strongest of a relevant evidence initially, the force has failed to produce the logs.

Separately, Mr. Oshiomhole said he found it illogical that hired assassins assured of N20 million would only accept N200, 000 in advance, and for several months dating the attack, failed to extract their balance.

As with the governor, the Edo prosecutor’s office raised similar concern of dismal evidences against Mr. Ugolor in the letter to the DIG and asked for his release. It is not clear how the police responded.

Mr. Ugolor was later released and has also instituted charges against the police over his illegal detention.

Its now 10 months since Mr. Oyerinde was killed. Unless the House clarifies the discrepancies in the suspects and the trials, the true murderers of the deceased may never be found.

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