Saturday, March 4, 2017 11:30 am
In 2017, it will be 17 years after the nation’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, was assassinated. Since then, the case has remained under the carpet.
However, Festus Keyamo, the lawyer at the centre of fishing out the murderers, delivered a speech on Tuesday 20 December 2016, when Ige, popularly known as the ‘Cicero’ of Esa Oke, was honoured. The programme was organized by the Bola Ige Centre for Justice, which has been holding annual symposium in his honour.
Below is a transcrpt (from video recording) of Keyamo’s speech that day:
There was a set of people in government that was not prepared to do anything and I knew that government, the state itself, was complicit in the murder of Bola Ige. It’s complicit. And I thought that there was no point talking and when they approached me, I said well, we have a new era, let us see what is going to happen. I was preparing to say something for the first time, publicly in 15 years. Now as I go through some of the events, I will highlight the anomalies and intrigues that took place that ultimately derailed an otherwise straight forward investigation.
Watch the Youtube video here: https://youtu.be/F1w6Be7_6Ug
Bola Ige was murdered in his bedroom in Ibadan on 23rd of December 2001. Now let us start from the very beginning. Eight days earlier, he had been assaulted on the palace of Oni of Ife by people who were well known, who were seen in the public, no doubt about that. So there was no controversy about that and as a result, a red flag should have gone up in security circle. When you assault a minister of justice in the full glare of the public, remove his cap, assault him, remove his sunglasses publicly, immediately government should have known there is a problem, and you know they should have created a ring of security around him, very serious security around him.
Let’s digress a little, I was with the present president last year when he was campaigning, I was in Chatham house in London and as part of my annoyance against that system too, I came out and supported the move to change the system, so I went with them to Chatham house. When we were in Chatham house in London, the PDP brought in its supporters and they were chanting slogans outside and the APC also brought in supporters. The British Police heard what was happening and they came with a full van of security personnel and they said no we don’t want anything to happen in our territory and they insisted on escorting PMB out of the place and back to his place and he resisted. He said no, no, nothing was going to happen that they were just party supporters. They said no, they had instruction to make sure that he was protected till he left the United Kingdom. That was just because of some small people protesting outside, not that they assaulted him, and am sure that you saw pictures in the social media when I and PMB were coming out of Chatham House and they escorted him to a van and they drove off, and people were saying I was arrested in London! No. That was when the British Police escorted us out of Chatham House, Rotimi Amaechi, Lai Mohammed and lot of us, we entered the van and they took us out of the venue, and they remained there for the last two days, around the venue until we left the UK safely.
That is how a responsible police force is supposed to behave. Now we have a Minister of Justice, Attorney General of the Federation who was publicity assaulted, no red flag was raised and in fact a few days later, all his security personnel left him, left him, and that is the first factor we want to talk about, the incompetence of the Nigerian Police Force.
Now I don’t know up till today, I stand to be corrected, and we need to find out what happened to those police orderlies. Were they tried? Were they dismissed from the Nigerian Police Force? We need to know, so we should begin to take these notes down as we go on, let us begin to dig into these issues as we leave here.
First of all let us start from the beginning, those police officers, what has happened to them today? Have they been tried? Have they been given orderly room trials and those tried, dismissed from the Police force? This is for nothing else, just for negligence, just for dereliction of duty, let us know, let the government know. Now, before we go into what happened that time, from the reports we read, that the crime scene was also not protected after the incident happened, all kinds of characters came to the crime scene, it was not cordoned off, vital evidence was lost in the process and again we lost an opportunity to do a thorough investigation.
Now, on or about the 7th of January, this is where the drama started, About the 7th of January 2002 the police declared wanted a person that they themselves said was the prime suspect, I did not name him, I did not, it is none of my business, I did not, it is all about politics, the police, based on their investigation said their main suspect in this case was one Olugboyega Joseph Damola Adebayo alias Fryo. That this is their prime suspect and this is when the police wanted to do their job .
Initially they started well just like my boss said here that Abubakar Tsav started well… you know political murders, the police will start well and after some time they will be derailed by the power that be. A few days later this gentleman was brought to my office in Lagos by two journalists, they came in the night because of fear of being recognized in public in the day time because his photograph was everywhere, and I listened carefully to him and he narrated his story lucidly without interruption. Therefore, I said to him, look before I go further on this, I first of all I had a duty for the nation, to the family of the deceased to know the version of this story because most of the versions we will hear that the police will bring out after they might have arrested a suspect are not the real version of the story they had with the suspect. Like we heard in Alfred Rewane, they had to arrange for some armed robbers, all manners of people and you know Bola Ige was not killed by armed robbers. I wanted to be sure and I said ok, we would adopt a different strategy this time, let the public hear and know what the suspect had to say before he goes to police custody, criticize what you want, say what you like, but that was what I believe in and I decided to do it.
Now, I said, write in your own handwriting, not me now, your own handwriting, give me your brief as we normally do, lawyers normally do, write with your own handwriting, your story. He wrote about eight pages, the same story that we brought out, how the problem started, I will read the highlights later so that we can refresh our memories. After he wrote with his handwriting, the original copy I still have up till today, I kept it in my house, I brought some documents here too, you will see them. I said ok that is not enough, let people hear your voice, we need an audio record, he said ok, that is not enough, bring a camera, speak to the camera, so we did a video recording when he spoke, it was not written on any paper and I know some of you saw that recording before God and man. He spoke more than one hour into that video tape and said everything that happened and how they planned it and how he pulled out at the last minute, what was my gain there, what will I gain there, he mentioned places, time, dates, events that happened in Osun state, how will I have known all of these, how? That I tutored him, how? Did I know anything about Osun politics and the people and dramatis personae in Osun state?
And I said No, this is not enough, go and swear to an affidavit in court, he then swore to an affidavit in court of the events that happened and his original affidavit sworn to by himself. I knew he was going to make some mistakes, so he swore, that is the affidavit, it was signed twice by him, certified copy of it, the highlights of course was what my boss just mentioned that there was a serious disagreement between the governor and the deputy governor. Fryo belongs to the deputy governor’s camp and that he was part of the people that assaulted Ige at the palace of Oni of Ife at the instruction of Otunba Iyiola Omisore, on the instruction that he should remove his cap from him. After the incident, Omisore did not even hide it, he said this is the “last time Ige would come to an event to insult us again, we will deal with him if he comes here anytime”. Was it an impossible story? No, it was corroborated by what the person we talked about said.
And after that incident they all retreated to one hotel in Ife to celebrate the humiliation of Ige where food and drinks were declared to everybody by the same person, you have done well, eat and drink as you like but that is not the end of the story, you must go further, you must eliminate the man. Now, instead of the police to tell us that this incident happened, this one did not happen, we have investigated certain portions of his statements, no, they were rather busy struggling, instead of investigating the murder, they were struggling to disprove the statement. I have never seen this kind of thing in my life. They left the investigation and started investigating whether they made statements or not; and started arresting everybody in relation to that because the statement he made was unpalatable to the powers that be.
So what they did first of all. I needed to go through this whole thing again, but you know, most of you have access to it. He was contesting for governorship and once again somebody pointed out this issue and he was sueing for defamation, the moment he got this in court he withdrew the case.
Now the police will tell us was there an incident at that time when the AIG came to Otunba Iyiola Omisore in the morning after the murder of Odunayo Omobolanle Olagbaju and met this young man there, because there were places, times and dates mentioned, so that is what the police should have been telling us, the outcome of their investigation on his statement, not whether he made a statement or not, they were not interested whether he made the statement than investigating the statement on the person they said is the prime suspect themselves.
Now they arrested the journalists, took them to Abuja and for days they were cajoling and forcing the journalists – thank God they are living witnesses, they were forcing the journalists to admit that Fryo did not make those statements, they were forcing them. Meanwhile, don’t forget that at that time Fryo was still my client, so I sought audience with him, a day after handing him over to the police publicly.
The police refused me access to him from that day, but that day, that same day, my sources said, some members, some people from Osun state, from the political camp he belong came to see him that day in the cell at Alagbon close, that was where the story caved, they allowed people from Osun state to see him that day in the cell after handing him over to the police, so they were piling pressures on the journalists to admit that those statements were not correct and the journalists, they stood their ground, they refused to be cowed, they said they were ready, they handed him over and they knew everything that happened, they were there, they filmed it, who filmed us, was it a ghost? It was the journalists that filmed us, that video you saw, it was the journalists that filmed us, after that, expectedly they came for me, I think February 26, they came to arrest me, I expected it and I was waiting for them. February 26 or 16, 2002, I was in my office, they came and said I had been asked to report to Abuja, to join the journalists, I said Ok.
Before then, I had copies of everything with me, statements of Fryo, the original copies, I made photocopies. I slept there with hardened criminals, suffered so much for this cause, and the next day we set off by road, 14 hours journey to Abuja. When we got to Abuja, they subjected me to gruesome interrogation, they said the suspect has said that he never wrote statement. I said Ok, fine, where is your own investigation report? Because you cannot come and say that the suspect just denied the statement and you start to arrest everybody, where is your investigation report regarding the statement he denied? You could have told us that you have gone to the hotel in Ife and discovered there was no meeting in Ife after Ige was assaulted, only when you saw the report, you said you went there and the report was incorrect, they were looking at me like dundees.
I was now the one questioning them, tell me why the person you said is the prime suspect, show me your reports, they were looking at me like fools, you can’t start arresting people because somebody denied his statement, between a known and suspected criminal that assaulted the minister of justice publicly and permit me the modesty a respectable lawyer, you now believe him more than myself and you start arresting everybody because he denied the statement? Meanwhile they have left the murder investigation, they were pursuing vigorously an investigation whether he made the statement than to destroy the statement. Till today police are directing all their effort, all their energy towards discrediting the statement of Fryo. Where is their own report till today, where is it?
After that they now paraded me as a common criminal, they brought me out the next day after sleeping in the cell for two days, they brought Fryo and myself to create drama, myself, start arguing with Fryo before the public, do you make or do you not make the statement? I told them, I just pity this young man, I refuse to fall into this trap, you should call this press conference to tell the public the outcome of your investigation into the statement he made, that is what you should call this press conference about. When they know they failed, they now brought me back to Lagos, again by road.
Incidentally, when I was in the cell I met one young man called Banjo Olofu. Banjo was a gate man, and you know gate man is different from security. He was the gate man of Chief Bola Ige, just employed a few days before that incident happened, I think Banjo Olofu is from Benue state. I interacted with him, unfortunately I didn’t have a tape to tape him because I love to tape people and he said gentleman he has all the story, that he was arrested at that time. What is the story? He said he had told the police already about the person who first came to the house that day and pushed the gate open. He said this is the man, and he made a statement to the police. The police had this evidence with them and they were trying to redirect the cause of the investigation, when the independent investigation was pointing to that end.
Now, when they brought me to Lagos, they charged me for perjury, what they wanted to achieve was to convict me of perjury and put paid to that statement. They charged me for perjury, to convict me that the statement is false so that, that statement cannot be used again in a judicial position against anybody, that was their aim. Unfortunately for them, we had the attorney general of Lagos state then who is now the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo, he called for the file, and didn’t take him 24 hours to issue his advice. He said look you are wasting your time, that is the advice, exonerating me.
Unfortunately for me, they went to the extent that when I was in detention in Abuja, they had invaded my office and private home, that was how desperate they were, my poor younger brother who was struggling to write his WAEC exam, they took him away. They started taking him from one media house to another to say that he supported the fact that the statement was not correct (when he was not in my practice, he was not there, the journalists said they don’t even know this young man). That is the pain I suffered, the family pain I suffered as a result of that.
The day the trial finished at Ibadan, because they brought him to Ibadan, my younger brother to testify in favour of Omisore. The day the trial finished that was the day they refused to renew the rent. He now went to Warri, went to my father’s place. He went to my mother’s place in Ilaro in Ogun state and started telling everybody to beg me to rehabilitate him, whereas anyway we forgave him, but that is how bad it was.
So when that incident finished, after I was discharged and acquitted based on this legal advice, the file went to Oyo State, because they had to prosecute at the end of the day, It happened in Oyo state, and this is where politics interfaced with investiagation in Nigeria because when I went back to that state, the investigation wanted to derail, now I went back to track again because we now have a government in Oyo state, Lam Adesina, he had an attorney general who was ready to do his job, the attorney general of Oyo state now said Look, all these rubbish you are talking about, go back to the original, go and bring the statement of Fryo and his affidavit, his handwritten statement, the tape, this is what we are going to use to prosecute.
So they brought a letter to me all of a sudden. This is the letter they wrote to me, saying please they are now begging me that those items in my hand they need them, these are the main things they need to prosecute, they need the original copies to tender in court. I said ehnnn I will not give you until I get to court. The police were still working to destroy that prosecution. I normally get into trouble one way or the other, I would have been arrested for representing a group that they said had burnt NNPC because they got angry with me and you know they didn’t want me to be a witness because as trial was approaching, for no reason former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, arrest him along. So they arrested me and took me to Abuja detention cell, kept me in an underground cell for two months, SSS cell and then. The first sitting of the trial of Bola Ige I was absent because I was the first person they wanted to call and I was in cell, now when they brought me out of the cell and brought me in preparation to charge for arson because I represented a group that said they wanted to burn the NNPC down.
I now met Olofu again that is where it is getting interesting, Omisore has been impeached as the deputy governor of Osun state that was in 2002. Okay January 2003 I was in cell from January to February, they now brought me to Alagbon close to charge me, Omisore was in the first cell and I was in the last cell. I met Andrew Olofu again, in that Alagbon. Guess what, Andrew Olofu was in the same cell with Omisore. I said this is bad. I cried out to the public that this investigation is destroyed already. The prime suspect in the same cell with the principal witness, he was the one feeding Andrew Olofu because police has abandoned Andrew Olofu, he was the one feeding and taking care of him, I am saying this publicly.
Otunba Iyiola Omisore now sent word to me that I was just coming, that there is food in his flask, why wont I come and eat and I said God forbid. He sent word to me that he has food in his cell that I should come and share his food, Olofu was kept in the same cell for months in the same cell with Omisore, only for the guy to come to court and said he cannot recognize any body again. That was where the prosecution collapsed, he said he could not recognize anybody again and then the other set of suspects arrested alongside Omisore because they were two prosecution going on separately, Omisore was charged separately, Fryo, they were charged separately. Till today there was no conclusion to that trial.
The moment Lam Adesina was removed from power in 2003, a new government that was appointed, a new attorney general was appointed too, the DPP of Oyo state that was cooperating with us in that case turned a left eye the moment there was a change of government after May 2003, they were no longer cooperating with us again, they were actually cooperating with the defence. That was how an otherwise simple straight investigation was totally derailed, they withdrew the charges against them, they didn’t prosecute them again and they began to stumble with that of Omisore back and forth at that time.
From his cell he had been charged for murder, remanded and awaiting trial, the ruling party, hello, the ruling party, PDP, gave him ticket, the man who left his party to serve your government was allegedly killed by somebody, a suspect was awaiting trial for that justice minister, a suspect was held for killing your justice minister, you gave that same person a ticket to your party to run as a senator. What other evidence do you need to offset complicity. Of all the brilliant sons of Osun state, you saw nobody and the man won, he allegedly won.
That was poltical interference at its best. The greatest impediment we have to criminal justice system in Nigeria is political interference, like I said here before, the police can do their work when they want to do their work and they can do it as swiftly and efficiently if they want to work but political interference is the greatest impediment we have to cater for investigation and prosecution in Nigeria.
Forget about murder now, we will get there gradually, who has been charged to court and convicted for the assault on Ige, let us go step by step, let us convict some people first by assaulting Ige, they should be arrested today, charged and prosecuted. They should be convicted first for assaulting Ige, so in that process they would confess. You can’t assault a justice minister publicly, humiliate him and nobody, I repeat and nobody was charged for that, no single person was charged for that incident, it is a disgrace. It is unacceptable. It is a shame. Somebody has to pay for it. To now dip a hole you now in the heart of Nigeria as a whole and this is the type of thing that encourages people to do this kind of thing – political killings, over and over again because people who have done such things are not persecuted, they are not brought to justice
The first recommendation that I have is that the head of law enforcement agencies , the appointment and removal from office should be apolitical, just like the chief justice of Nigeria, their removal should be subject to an address, maybe an address to the National assembly supported by even two thirds or majority before they could be removed or cases of misconduct. The attorney general office should be separated from the minister of justice so that the attorney general exercise his office, to prosecute or not to prosecute without political interference and the attorney general’s office and tenure should be secured like the chief justice of Nigeria. The attorney general in South Africa, was it the attorney general investigated the president, they went to court and the president was indicted even during Bill Clinton’s time, the attorney general indicted him, investigated and indicted him over Monika Lewinsky affair so we need independent head of agencies, law enforcement agencies whose appointments and removal are completely apolitical.
The case of Bola Ige, the fact before us and everything shows that the state supported certain elements in Osun state, they were even accessories before and after the fact of the murder, the state was actively involved, covered up the murder, gave a ticket to those accused of the murder and promoted them politically even when they were facing trial. The state was actively involved in the cover up of that murder and that is why in the case of Bola Ige it was a case of the killers they were looking for, looking for the killers, that was why the killers were never found.