Tuesday, December 20, 2016 8:44 pm
Fifteen years after Bola Ige’s murder, pressure mounts on President Muhammadu Buhari to begin fresh probe
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Fifteen years after the murder of the nation’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, activists, social crusaders, politicians, lawyers and others have begun to mount pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to institute a fresh probe into the gruesome murder of the elder statesman.
Hundreds of Nigerians, politicians, lawyers, activists had gathered at the Osun Hall, Airport Hotel, Ikeja Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Tuesday to honour Ige, popularly known as the ‘Cicero’ of Esa Oke. The programme was organized by the Bola Ige Centre for Justice, which has been holding annual symposium in his honour.
Eminent Nigerians at the occasion are Senator Shehu Sanni, who was chairman, Festus Keyamo, Lateef Fagbemi, Muyiwa Ige, son of the late Ige; Yemisi Ransome-Kuti; Senai Agunbiade, Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly; Kunle Ajibade, Excutive Editor, The News/PM News; Oba Rufus Olanrewaju, Kolawole Esan, Kunle Ige, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Adeola Rotinwa, who represented wife of the Lagos State Governor, Bolanle Ambode; Playwright, Odia Ofeimum, among others.
The lecture, titled: “Political Killings and our Criminal Justice System in Nigeria: The Impediments,” sets the agenda of the day.
Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, who was at the centre of Ige’s story gave a vivid account of state’s complicity in the murder of the former Attorney General and called for a fresh probe into the matter as justice must be done at all cost.
Keyamo had narrated that the incident that transpired immediately after Ige’s murder and how Olugbenga Adebayo alias Fryo, opened up on how the murder was planned, fingering Senator Iyiola Omisore, who was then the deputy governor of Osun State.
He said after two journalists brought Fryo to him, with all his confessions documented, the police which had earlier declared him wanted as the prime suspect, suddenly turned around to dispute his confession as the power that be covered up the story.
“The state is culpable in the murder of Bola Ige. Bola Ige had eight days earlier before he was assassination assaulted publicly by Omisore at the Ooni’s palace. As a result of that a red flag should have gone up in the security sector to protect him. The government of the day should have known and protected him. How can you have a Minister of Justice assaulted outside and nothing was done about it?”
Keyamo expressed bitterness that he was accused by the police of tutoring Fryo what to say when the evidence were there to show that he was saying the right thing, adding that earlier before Ige was murdered, Omisore and the rest had celebrated his humiliation at the Ooni’s palace in an hotel in Osun.
He added that instead of the police to act on Fryo’s evidence to nail the culprit in the murder, the police were struggling to disprove the confessional statement of Fryo because the statement he made were seen as unpalatable to the palace.
“The police were more interested in disproving Fryo’s statement. They arrested the two journalists who brought Fryo to my office and took them to Abuja and tried to make them counter the statement but they refused. I was also arrested and taken to Abuja where I was told that the suspect said he did not make such statement,” he explained.
Keyamo said it was the former Lagos Attorney General and now Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo who called for the file and took up the matter and that the matter was later referred to Oyo State where the incident happened.
He explained further that all through the period of Lam Adeshina as governor of Oyo State, the case went on, but that immediately the PDP took over the state, they buried the case.
Keyamo lamented that during the trial, Omisore was placed in the same prison with one Andrew Olofu, one of the gatemen who had told him in prison while he was arrested earlier that it was Alani Omisore who came to Ige’s house to commit the murder.
He said he raised the alarm then that the case would be compromised for allowing Omisore, who was the prime suspect in the murder of Ige with the prime witness, adding that Olofu after having been fed by Omisore in prison and wooed came to court to say that he could no longer recognize anybody.
Keyamo summed up his narration that the greatest hindrance to criminal justice in Nigeria was political interference which led to swipping under the carpet Ige’s murder.
“Till today, who has been charged to court on the assault on Ige and convicted?” He asked, adding that there was the need for the case to be re-opened.
He advovated an independent body to be in charge of appointing police chiefs in order to avoid undue political interference , while the office of the Attorney General should be separated from the Minister of Justice so that the Attorney General’s office could be independent to investigate and prosecute any case.
In his own speech, Political Killings and our Criminal Justice System, Prince O Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (he was one of the lawyers prosecuting the case and Niyi Akintola also represented the Ige family then) said:
“No one has explained the main reason the principal investigators in the murder of Chief Bola Ige were summarily redeployed and replaced with new investigators. I am aware that, the then Deputy Inspector -General of Police, Abimbola Ojomo, who was then leading the investigation team had done substantial job on the case before she was unceremoniously directed to hand over the file and another person took charge of same. It is noteworthy that DIG Ojomo was at that material time the head of the Police Force Criminal Investigation Department. One wonders who could be better suited for the job than DIG Ojomo.”
Speaking, Senator Sanni admitted that there was the need for the government of Buhari to urgently open up fresh probe into the murder of Ige so that justice could be done.
“There is a strong evidence of state’s participation in the murder of Bola Ige based on the fact that the suspects were shielded and promoted,” he said, stressing that Keyamo’s narration of the incident was a better evidence to open up fresh probe in the matter.
According to him, it was not too late for the government to institute fresh probe in the murder of Ige, adding that “if we don’t do it, the spirit of Ige will continue to hunt this nation until justice is done.
Sanni lamented that it had almost be the pattern that whenever a high profile murder was committed, the police would be serious only for them to cool down after the attention of the media in the case had waned.
He also said the police would always parade innocent criminals in their prisons as suspect in the murder in order to deceive the public that they were working, stressing that it was glaring that the police and the government then fully participated in the murder of Ige as evidence had shown.
Sanni assured that when the Senate was back from recess, he would sponsor a motion on the floor of the upper chamber to pressurize the government of Buhari to open fresh probe in the murder of Ige.
Speaking, Senai Agunbiade said it was clear that Ige was not murdered by ghosts but human beings, lamenting that 15 years after, nothing had been done and called for fresh investigation into the murder.
Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Bolanle Ambode, who was represented by Rotinwa decried the tragic murder of Ige 15 years ago, calling on the government to ensure that the killers were prosecuted.
She said the non-arrest of the suspects had worsened the matter, saying that “we are still hoping that justice will be done. The criminal justice system has a huge task and that is that killers must be brought to book.”