The police have announced the arrest of four men they believed participated in the murder of Funke Olakunrin. A suspected crime lord who led the team was also declared wanted after detectives laboured in vain to arrest him for several months.
Mrs Olakunrin, a daughter of Afenifere leader Reuben Fasoranti, was killed in July 2019 by armed men, who were not immediately identified.
The murder sparked nationwide outrage, especially amongst leaders in the south, and worsened distrust between Yoruba leaders and the Buhari administration, which has been accused of not doing enough to curb the activities of marauding herders and other criminal gangs.
On Thursday, the police announced they have made a significant progress in their efforts to apprehend the killers.
The suspects so far taken into custody in alleged connection to the murder are: Lawal Mazaje, 40, from Felele area of Kogi State; Adamu Adamu, 50, from Jada area of Adamawa State; Mohammed Usman, 26, from Illela area of Sokoto State and Auwal Abubakar, 25, from Shinkafi area of Zamfara State.
It was unclear when the suspects would be arraigned, but the police said they were looking for their leader who has been at large.
He was identified only as ‘Tambaya’, and detectives could not immediately determine his full identity.
He was described as capable of communicating in Hausa, Fulfude and Pidgin English; fair in complexion and suspected to be between 27 and 30. He was last known to be in Isanlu, Kogi State and has a visible scar from stitches on his forehead down to his nose and mouth.
Ms Olakunrin was murdered on July 12 near Ore, Ondo State. She was believed to be on her way to Lagos when gunmen opened fire and fatally shot her.
Police spokesperson Frank Mba said the suspects were arrested after being linked to a separate case of armed robbery and kidnapping in the neighbouring Ogun State.
On March 4, a team that was investigating an armed robbery attack first arrested Mr Abubakar, Mr Mba said. He then led officers to two other members of the gang, Messrs Usman and Mazaje, in Benin, Edo State. A cache of ammunition was subsequently recovered before Mr Adamu was picked up in Akure.
Following physical and forensic evidence allegedly linking the suspects to Mrs Olakunrin’s murder, homicide detectives went further to conduct additional identification probe on April 8, during which a survivor of the attack identified the suspects, police said.
“The survivor gave a clear description of the roles each of the identified suspects played in the killing,” police said.
The suspects then allegedly “voluntarily offered a no-holds-barred confession” of their roles in Mrs Olakunrin’s murder.
Detectives now believed at least eight men took part in the murder, and they have their operational base across the Southwest and Edo State. They have also been linked to other active cases of armed robbery, kidnapping and vandalism