Group commends the House for rejecting the probe report.
The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, on Wednesday, accused the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Petitions of bias in its handling of the petition against the Nigeria Police over alleged complicity and shoddy investigation of the gruesome murder of Olaitan Oyerinde on May 4, 2012.
The Conference of non-Governmental Organisations, CONGOs, a coalition of some civil society and human right groups in Edo State, had petitioned the House over an alleged cover-up and professional misconduct levelled against the police in its probe of the murder.
Mr. Oyerinde, a former principal private secretary to the Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was murdered at his residence in the Government Reserved Area, GRA, Benin City in the early hours of May 4, 2012 by gunmen.
Following the incident, the police arrested and detained a Benin City-based human rights activist and Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, David Ugolor, after accusing him of being the mastermind of the murder of his bosom friend.
The police said it acted based on a confessional statement by one of the suspects, Garba Maisamari, arrested in connection with the crime.
The police said Mr. Maisamari claimed he was recruited by one David and given N20,000 as part payment for N20 million he promised to pay his gang to kill Mr. Oyerinde.
While in detention, Mr. Ugolor was paraded before the criminals. But, Mr. Maisamari reportedly was unable to clarify if Mr. Ugolor was “David.” He confessed later that he had never met the David, and that the name was given to him under duress by the police, apparently, to implicate the activist.
Three days after the parade by the police, the Department of State Security Service, SSS, on August 1, 2012, also paraded another set of persons in Abuja as suspects who confessed to the killing.
The Deputy Director, Public Relations, SSS, Marylyn Ogar, said four of the suspects – Mohammed Abdullahi, Raymond Origbo, Chikezie Edeh, and Saidi Yakubu (aka Imam) – had confessed on interrogation to killing Mr. Oyerinde during a robbery incident that turned awry.
The other two suspects – Sani Abubakar and Hassan Bashiru – were identified as those who bought the personal items the gang stole from the deceased house after the incident.
Ms. Ogar said it was a careless statement by the late Mr. Oyerinde’s security guard, Ihade, about his boss’ wealth and top position in government that got the prime suspect in the murder, Mohammed Abdullahi, interested in hatching the robbery plot.
The SSS said the arms and ammunition used for the operation were recovered and handed over to the police along with the suspects for further investigations.
However, claims and counter-claims by the police and the SSS highlighted the inconsistencies and disparities in the findings from different investigations into the murder. The inconsistencies in the investigations thickened later, when findings by the office of the Edo State Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, showed that two of the suspects paraded by the police, Danjuma Musa and Muritala, were already in the police custody since April 24, 2012 before the crime.
The DPP said the duo were already arrested and detained in connection with a case of unlawful possession of cartridges but they were taken in by the Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, for interrogation, when they reportedly confessed to Mr. Oyerinde’s murder.
It was the conflicting accounts in the investigations that suggested a compromised role by the police, along with the arrest and detention of Mr. Ugolor for the crime, that informed the decision by CONGOs to file the petition,
After a brief review of the Committee’s report on the petition, a copy of which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja, NOPRIN said in its preliminary comments that the committee was “manifestly biased” in its handling of the assignment in favour of the Police.
The National Coordinator of the group, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said while NOPRIN was still studying the report and other documents relating to the investigations, the language, tone and slant of the report displayed a hardly veiled attempt to exonerate the police on allegation of complicity in the shoddy investigation of the murder.
Mr. Nwanguma said his group’s call on the leadership of the House to conduct an integrity audit on members of the committee was to determine whether they were still morally fit and suitable to be retained as members of that crucial and sensitive committee, and its implication may be for the reputation of the entire House.
NOPRIN accused the committee of ignoring very vital issues and grave allegations contained in the petition, pointing out that most of its assertions and conclusions in the report were based on submissions and claims by the police, the principal accused agency.
The group said the committee made no effort to verify the claims by the police, by visiting the different sets of suspects paraded by the police and SSS, particularly the one that confessed to being tortured by the police to implicate Mr. Ugolor in the murder.
While commending the House for rejecting the report, NOPRIN said it was curious that the committee glossed over the issue of gross violation of the fundamental rights of Mr. Ugolor, who the police unlawfully detained in disregard to several court orders to release him.
“The committee also made no effort to address the issue of conflict in the number and identities of suspects paraded by the police and the SSS respectively over the same case,” Mr. Nwanguma said.
Rejecting the recommendation by the committee for the police to re-investigate the case, NOPRIN said “this speaks volumes, and points to the possible undercurrents that may have gone on behind the scene in the course of the committee’s ‘assignment”.
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