The police have extremely weak evidence against David Ugolor.
The Edo State Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, has cleared the Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, David Ugolor, of any complicity in the murder of Olaitan Oyerinde, former principal private secretary to Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
The DPP, in a legal advice dated October 29 to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, over allegations of involvement in armed robbery/murder preferred against Mr. Ugolor and nine others, faulted police claims, saying its investigations revealed no “independent evidence” or “prima facie case” against the human rights activist.
In the report, signed by Ade Irehovbudeto and addressed to the Deputy IGP in-charge of the ‘D’ Department, Force Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Force headquarters, Abuja, the DPP noted that allegations against Mr. Ugolor was trite law, as it “hinged entirely on the confessional statement” by an accused armed robber.
A copy of the report was sent to the Chief Magistrate, Oredo Magistrate Court 2, Benin City.
Following late Oyerinde’s murder at his Ugbor Road, GRA residence in Benin City on May 4, the then acting IGP, Mohammed Abubakar, announced the arrest of four persons in connection with the incident.
But complications arose when the police later announced the arrest of Mr. Ugolor following reports of confessions by one of the detained accused criminals, Garuba Maismari, that the activist sponsored the armed gang that killed Mr. Oyerinde.
The police said the activist was arrested following reports that he was the last person with the deceased before his killers struck and the first to be contacted by the victim’s wife to assist in carrying him to the hospital after the fatal attack.
Few days later, a new twist was introduced in the case. Officials of the State Security Service, SSS, in Abuja paraded six suspects – Mohammed Abdullahi, Raymond Origbo, Chikezie Edeh, Saidu Yakubu, Sani Abubakar and Hassan Bashiru – for alleged involvement in the murder.
Deputy Director, Media and Public Relations, SSS, Marilyn Ogar, named Mr. Abdullahi, Mr. Origbo and Mr. Edeh as prime suspects to crime, while Mr. Yakubu, Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Bashiru were accused of being buyers of stolen goods from the robbery gang.
The buyers were reportedly found to have bought some of the stolen personal items from late Mr. Oyerinde’s home, including four BlackBerry phones, one Ipad, one laptop, and wedding ring.
The suspects, who denied knowledge of Mr. Ugulor, had rendered graphic details of how the armed robbery operation later resulted in the killing of the late governor’s aide.
Despite the SSS report, the police still ignored condemnations by civil society groups and prominent individuals, including Mr. Oshiomhole, and kept Mr. Ugolor in its custody from July 27 to September 11, when he was released on bail on the orders of the court.
However, following police referral of the case for legal advice, the DPP in its reply faulted police claims linking Mr. Ugolor to the murder, saying that the gun that was said to have been used to kill late Mr. Oyerinde could not have been the same that was already recovered from two of the suspects, Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman, and kept in the custody of the Edo State Police Command since April 24, almost two weeks before the incident.
“After a careful perusal of the contents of the duplicate case file, this office advises that a prima facie case of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and murder is made out against Garba Usman Maisamari, Auta Umau Ali, Moses Asamah Okoro and Usman Adamu who all confessed to the crime,” the DPP said in the report.
“We note also that the Police Investigation Report dated 1st August, 2012, at page 11 thereof, is to the effect that: “One locally made cut to size single barrel gun with one cartridge confirmed by the suspects to have been used in the armed robbery operation at No. 65, 2nd Ugbor Road, GRA, Benin City, was traced to Esigie Police Station and retrieved.
The DPP held that the confession of an accused person cannot be tendered as evidence against another accused.
“With respect to Rev. David Ugolor, the allegation against him hinge entirely on the confessional statement of Garba Usman Maisamari.
“It is trite law that in the absence of independent evidence, the confession of an accused person is not admissible evidence against a co-accused. Accordingly, as the record stands today, no prima facie is made out against him. He should be released if still in custody,” the public prosecutor said.
In a swift reaction on Thursday, Mr. Ugolor told reporters in Benin City that though the DPP report has established his innocence and brought his quest for justice to an end, “the battle to set the innocent free who are still held captive and end the culture of impunity among law enforcement officers has just begun”.
He announced the launch of a new campaign for both police and prison reforms in the country.