By September 21, this year, it will be exactly two years that the former Executive Director of the human rights advocacy body, the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, Mr. Chima Ubani died in a ghastly motor accident along Bauchi-Maiduguri road while returning from a protest rally against hikes in fuel prices by the then Obasanjo government.
Ubani died alongside a Vanguard newspaper reporter, Mr. Tunji Oyeleru, with the driver, Sadiq Yakubu and two police escorts Malik and Ezekiel sustaining various degrees of injuries. The vehicle a Toyota Land Cruiser, in which they were travelling, was the official car of Mr. Adams Oshiomole, former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress. The jeep was said to be following few distance behind the lead vehicle, a Honda car, when it suddenly had a tyre blow-out and somersaulted several times before coming to a stop by the road side.
However, in an investigative report on the circumstances of the late Ubani's death released recently and made available to this magazine, the CLO suspected the possibility of foul play, claiming that the accident could not have occurred due to peripheral factors such as obsolescence, faulty alloy rim, faulty tubeless valve or the action of a road stone kicked up by another tyre, but by a tamper with the performance mechanism of the jeep.
“The land cruiser's tubeless steel-belted radial tyres were industry standard and designed for longetivity, strength and safety by not deflating suddenly even if punctured by a nail. One of them on the right front did not meet this expected design performance. It exploded. Why did the other tyres meet the performance specification in the same crash environment?” the report queried, stating that “further scrutiny of the whole vehicle and drive train areas was necessary and yielded us reason and basis for ruling out peripheral factors such as obsolescence, faulty alloy rim, faulty tubeless valve or the action of a road side stone kicked up by another tyre usually launched as a projectile with damaging consequences at times, especially to the CV joint rubber. The spare tyre which was undamaged had a residual inflation pressure of 28 psi, which conforms to the prescribed range (only 7% above specification for this environment). This precludes the possibility of over inflation pressure as an inducing factor. To fail to conform to the prescribed predictable performances characteristic clearly therefore points to sabotage as the inducing factor.”
The six-paged report further noted that the spatial deformation of the wreckage ensemble contained some anomalies not consistent with a somersault-induced damage, disclosing that “while the stabilizer bar and bushings and drive shaft CV joint rubber boots sustained no ruptures, the radius rod and lower control arm of the right front suspension had embedded in their surfaces darkened tiny metallic fragments. The former materials are rubber, the latter steel.” “If sheer impact stresses from the somersaulting were the only prevailing forces generating fragmentation,” the report posited that the rubbers in close proximity should have sustained severer damage, contending however that they were neither damaged nor any components in the vicinity.
“The metal fragments,” it said, “must have emanated from extraneous induced forces of some magnitude-a bomb primary detonator or cap for instance.”
The CLO therefore dismissed the “accident” hypothesis, concluding that “the cause of the disaster was probably the installation of a high-tech explosive device at night front in Maiduguri in the vicinity of the front wheel. Alternatively, it was probably the result of a coordinated military operation by a satellite-guided local intelligence operative using high-tech weaponry and the global positioning system (GPS) now a standard feature in the model of the land cruiser in question.”
Mr. Osaze Lanre Nosaze, executive director of the organisation, in an interview, told this magazine that a copy of the report had been sent to the police authorities but said no acknowledgment has so far been received.
“Unfortunately, no reaction up till now. We have just sent another letter, they have not responded, they have not contacted us. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of the letter,” he said.
When contacted last week on phone to confirm the receipt of the report, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Haz Iwendi said “no, I can't confirm now but I can assure you that once the IG gets it, he will definitely order that the case be revisited.”
But the CLO boss, who reiterated the call for the police to re-open investigation into late Chima Ubani's death, believes such effort will provide a new opportunity for the police to redeem their battered image, particularly when cases involving other prominent Nigerians are still unresolved.
“If they have bungled investigations into previous cases, this is a new opportunity for them to redeem themselves by properly conducting this investigation and getting at the root of the matter and finding those who are responsible and bringing them to book. It is an opportunity for them. If they treat it as just armed robbery case or mysterious death and they don't do what they are supposed to do, then they have failed in their duty and they will be held responsible,” he said.
On why it took the organisation almost two years to come out with the investigation, Nosaze said the sensitive nature of the case and the need to present a reliable and defendable report was responsible. “We didn't want to feed speculations as to what might have coursed the death of Chima. We want something which we could reliably defend and so we did the investigation thoroughly until we came out with something reliable. You know in such matters, there is a lot of a speculation and we did not want to feed these speculation, we didn't want to jump into conclusion. People may have had their own pet theory as to how Chima died; we wanted to have something, which is based on evidence”.