The police in Ondo State have denied arresting the suspected killers of Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of the leader of Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti.
The police’s statement counters claims by Afenifere spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, that four suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder.
Mrs Olakurin was gruesomely murdered by suspected herdsmen in July last year at Kajola along Ore-Ijebu Ode expressway while on her way to Lagos after visiting her father in Akure, Ondo State.
She was shot in her Toyota Landcruiser SUV and later died in spite of efforts to save her life.
Some other vehicles were also ambushed in the incident and several persons, including her driver, kidnapped, but were later rescued.
Her murder happened at the height of kidnappings and gun attacks by herders in the south west region, a development that spurred the leaders of the region into action, leading to the creation of Amotekun as a regional security network.
Afenifere had repeatedly accused the police of tardiness in the handling of the case.
Mr Odumakin first hinted on Monday that four suspects had been arrested by the Special Anti-robbery Squad(SARS) in Ondo State relating to the murder, and that police had taken in the driver of the deceased, who had earlier been released from custody.
The news of the arrest immediately gained prominence as it was widely reported.
But when PREMIUM TIMES reached the Police Public Relations Officer in Ondo State, Tee Leo-Ikoro, on Monday, he said no arrest had been made.
“We will be happy to arrest the suspect, but as of today, the suspects are yet to be arrested by the Ondo State Command,” he said.
The police spokesperson said the news of the arrest of the suspects must be the work of purveyors of fake news.
Mr Ikoro later issued a statement denouncing the report and insisting that the police were still investigating.
However, a statement by Mr Odumakin on Tuesday, further heightened the controversy as he urged journalists to ignore the denial of arrest statement by the police command.
“Kindly disregard the statement credited to the Ondo Police PRO on the above subject,” he said.
“The regular Police in Ondo state has behaved so irresponsibly on the murder of Mrs Funke Olakunrin in the last 9 months.
“But for SARS that has now apprehended the suspected killers, we would have lost confidence in the organization.
“We were shocked that the regular police in Ondo released the car in which Mrs Olakunrin was killed to the family the day after the incident without any forensic.
“It was after Afenifere’s complaint to the police at the highest level that they came to take the car for forensic after seven days of people touching the car with no report to the family till date. They just asked them to come and take the car that they were done with it.
“They were not going to do any autopsy on her until we insisted one must be carried out.
“They never deemed it necessary to brief the family once in the last 9 months.
But the SARS who arrested the suspected killers formally briefed Papa Fasoranti last Saturday showing the responsible face of the police.
“The 94-year-old Pa Fasoranti who has been having sleepless nights in the last nine months has resumed normal sleep since SARS briefed him on the arrest.
“The driver who was on the wheel when Mrs Olakunrin was killed and went with the killers was treated with kid gloves by the regular police in Ondo but the SARS has taken him in yesterday after he failed to report for days despite repeated invitations.
“Once again we commend the SARS for the wonderful job they have done and we wait for thorough investigation that will lead to diligent prosecution.”
Responding to Mr Odumakin’s state, Mr Leo-Ikoro said the Afenifere spokesperson misunderstood the mission of the SARS personnel who visited the Afenifere leader.
According to him, the visit of the SARS operative was to seek the permission of the Afenifere leader to allow his driver to come and identify some persons arrested to see if they were the suspects in question.
“That does not mean the suspects who murdered his daughter had been arrested,” said Mr Leo-Ikoro.
“We are investigating that case like you know, the SARS here and the federal SARS, both of them are working.
“Now the federal SARS came with some alleged suspects in that case; they needed identification, and you know that the driver of that late woman stays with the chief.
“What they did was to go there to see whether chief could allow them have that driver to identify those people, that was all.
“They have not arrested these people and say they are the ones who did that, it was to see whether the driver could identify any of them as being one of those who took part in that incident.”
Mr Leo-Ikoro said he believed Mr Odumakin might have misunderstood the submissions of the operatives to mean the arrest of the suspected killers.
“I have spoken to Yinka himself and I told him what happened and I also spoke to the SARS Commander in Ondo and he told me exactly what happened,” he added.
“There is no way they will make any arrest and the Commissioner of Police here will not know and there is no way we will make any arrest and the Inspector-General of Police will not know.
“We will be happy to make the arrest, but this one is not correct and there is nothing to hide.”