Let me start by welcoming on board the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase. It is heartwarming that the new IGP is already talking about restorative justice for Nigerians. It is equally heartwarming that Mr. Arase is from Edo State where the Comrade Governor’s Principal Private Secretary and my bosom friend, Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was gruesomely murdered by some persons on May 4, 2012.
It will then be good for Mr. Arase to begin the restorative justice action with the bringing to book of all those who murdered Olaitan Oyerinde in cold blood and all those who shielded his murderers since then. These include certain persons within the police system and their yet-to-be identified accomplices outside the police system.
Three years down the memory lane, Nigerians are still waiting for justice to be delivered to Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde even in his grave. Nigerians are still hopeful that now that the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan has been voted out, justice can now be made to take its full course on this matter.
It will be recalled that shortly after the gruesome murder of my friend, Olaitan Oyerinde, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the then Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar to fish out his killers. Sadly, Jonathan kept sealed lips all through the open bungling of the investigations by the Nigerian Police. It is even doubted if President Jonathan ever asked for the report of the investigation he ordered and his silence also leaves Nigerians to believe that he probably knew his real murderers and decided to use M.D. Abubakar to effectively bury the truth.
It remains a shame that in spite of the hues and cries of our Comrade Governor, the family and friends of Olaitan, President Jonathan gave a deaf ear to all, and this could make anyone conclude that the Presidency and the Nigerian Police as well as their collaborators know more than anyone else those who killed Oyerinde.
But because we are in a democracy where the rule of law ought to be prevailing irrespective of the status of the persons connected with the crime, we believe that it cannot be too late for my late friend, even in death to find justice. This is why we expect that our President-Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting Inspector- General of police should revisit this case and order a thorough review of the blue murder of Comrade Oyerinde.
It would be important to carry out a thorough review of the investigations carried out by the Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Police with a view to identifying the real murderers of Olaitan Oyerinde and make the real culprits and those who have been shielding them to face full weight of the law. It is shameful to the country that three years down the road all suspects paraded by the police, and who the Office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice stated in their advice to have case to answer have all been freed and walking the streets as free men.
His suspected killers, including those who confessed to pulling the trigger that sniffed off life from Olaitan have not been arraigned by any court of law. Up till now, all suspects paraded before the press by the State Security Service and the ones arrested and detained by men of the Nigeria Police Force have not been prosecuted and as such leaves watchers of events imagining what kind of society we belong.
Nigerians would recall that soon after his killing, an enraged Comrade Adams Oshiomhole made a hypothetical statement condemning the gruesome murder, demanding justice. Governor Oshiomhole who led a crowd of people in a protest match right from Benin Airport through major streets in Benin City said his political opponents wanted to demoralize him from being able to campaign for his re-election and as such they killed Comrade Olaitan whom he referred to as a "dependable ally who understood him more than anyone else."
In their failed desperation to cover up the murderers of Olaitan, men of the Nigeria Police Force on July 27th, 2012 arrested me as a suspect in connection with the murder and made all sorts of unfounded and spurious allegations against my person, the police made a big show of my arrest.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Chris Ezike who led the controversial arrest while making his presentation at the House Of Representatives Public hearing at the public hearing held on February 27, 2013 gave account of what led to my arrest a well known human rights activist in the country,, an explanation that exposed the shoddy nature of investigation carried out by the police and the contrived fabrication of the police in dragging me into the matter.
According to Ezike, police detectives moved to Adamawa State on the 22nd of June, 2012 and arrested Mohammed Baba Yewa who allegedly used stolen Olaitan’s telephone and that through Mohammed Baba Yewa, the police arrested Abubakar Raji in whose possession the deceased black berry bold five phone was recovered.
Ezike said that Mohammed Baba Yewa told them that one Idris Abduramid, a 24year old boy who lives in Benin with his parents at number 28, Iwehen Street until 2006 when the father went blind, they now relocated to Adamawa; that the boy hawks fairly used phones at Girei in Adamawa and that he was the one that brought the phone for him to buy but when he (Mohammed Baba Yewa) used the phone, there were some messages coming to the phone that he was not too sure of, and therefore gave the phone back to the boy and the boy thereafter sold it to Abubakar Raji.
But Deputy Commissioner of Police Chris Ezike failed to clarify one question: He said during the police investigation, Idris Abduramid and his parents have left Benin City since 2006. How did Idris Abduramid who was living in Adamawa since 2006 be in possession of Olaitan’s phone stolen on May 24th, 2012 in Benin City? This question is yet unanswered by the investigative police officers.
Aside this, Ezike said the police on the 26th, June, 2012 arrested one Hassan Baba-ete Aliu who allegedly admitted being a receiver of stolen items especially telephone handsets. But again failed to give the link that led to the arrest of Hassan Baba-ete Aliu.
He said Hassan Baba-ete Aliu named Garba Usman Maisamari, Umaru Adamu alias Umaru Highest and Bashiru Yusuf as people who supplied him stolen items. Ezike added that Hassan Baba-ete Aliu particularly named Garba Usman Maisamari as the person who supplied him the deceased telephone handset.
The Deputy Police Commissioner said the arrest of Hassan Baba-ete Aliu led to the disclosure of two suspects who have been in police custody that have extensive knowledge about the where about of Garba Usman Maisamari
He said the duo of Dajuman Musa and Muritalar Usman after interrogation admitted that they were robbers and they took the police to Olaitan Oyerinde’s House as one of the places they have robbed.
Chris Ezike said the two suspects said it was Garba Usman Maisamari who gave them the job to operate in Olaitan’s House and that they were four in number namely Dajuman Musa, Muritalar Usman, Auta Umaru, and Moses Asaman Okoro.
“They also mentioned one Umaru Adamu alias Duna as the person who gave them one of the locally made pistol with which they went for the operation. And that Muritalar Usman brought the other two pistols. They also claimed he mentioned someone else, he didn’t know his name, he said he has a dreadlock and stays at Lagos Street in the name of selling paints or so but he is the one that sells cartridges to them. They took us to the place and we saw the man with dreadlock and we arrested him. His name is Wilfred Iserhieirhien and he was identified as the person who sells cartridges to them. “Arising from these confessions, Garba Usman Maisamari was arrested from his House on the 28th of June while Auta Umaru and Umaru Adamu were arrested at the early hours of 4th July 2012. Wilfred Iserhieirhien was arrested on the 5th of July 2012. During a search in Garba Usman Maisamari house at number 11 Ezoba Street, off Sakponba road, Benin City;
According to the police, the following items were recovered: 23 used SIM cards which of different networks which he confessed that they are SIM cards he has over a period of time be removing from these phones they robbed and bring to him. A gold weighing scale; because when they snatched your gold and jewelries, he will weigh it, from the weigh he’s going to pay the bad boys. And then a black berry telephone which belong to High Chief Dr. Vincent Ifada of number 11 Oremeji Street, Itere Lagos. This chief in his statement said that he came to Benin when the President visited on Official assignment on the 30th of June. And while at the airport, he didn’t know when they removed his phone and the N200,000 he had in his pocket. That phone was recovered in Garba Usman Maisamari’s House, the innocent Nigerian! Six assorted wrist watches were also recovered from there.
“On the 11th of July, Moses (Asaman Okoro) was traced to the House of his girlfriend, number 20, Wisdom Street, off Lucky Way, Benin City while hiding in the girl’s House. The interrogation of Moses yielded amazing results. Moses confessed to the robbery and murder of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde which he admittedly carried out with Danjuma Musa, Muritalar Usman and Auta Umaru. He named Garba Usman Maisamari as the mastermind of the operation.
“According to him, Maisamari had told them that an unnamed man brought the job and promised to pay N20, 000,000 (twenty million naira) on the completion of the assignment.
“Now arising from Moses Asamah Okoro’s confession, having heard this, what do you do? All the suspects were now interrogated on the basis of the new disclosure. Garba Usman Maisamari admitted that he was hired to execute the job for a fee of N20, 000,000. He named one David who he described as not too tall, dark in completion, gets body small, and wears native dress always called ‘old school’. He also said that this David has already paid 200,000 naira which he paid at Bob-Izua park area."
Consequent upon this, I was arrested according to police report.
But what was very clear in Ezike's explanation is that Reverend David Ugolor was arrested simply because the police know me as a friend of Olaitan Oyerinde. Of course, the suspect, Garba Usman Maisamari never mentioned David Ugolor rather he named one ‘David’ which obviously could be any other person if the police were very thorough and diligent and fair in their investigation. First, Chris Ezike in his presentation did not state that Reverend David Ugolor was the only person answering David in the whole of Benin City. The question is, why was he the only David arrested which Maisamari was referring to. The IPO also said that Garba Usman Maisamari described the David as not too tall, dark in completion, get body small, and wears native dress always called ‘old school’. The police obviously failed to state that I, Reverend David Ugolor was the only person who answers David that has these features. This, it may not be wrong to say that the police was not fair to the Human Rights Activist.
Ideally, in this case, the police ought to be skeptical enough to ask Garba Usman Maisamari more questions with a view to having a better picture or detail background of who the David is. From Ezike's submission, it shows that the police acted simply on other promptings. Here was a Maisamari who did not know my office, house or cell phone number. In fact, when I subjected him to deeper interrogation before Ezike he siad I was calling him with an Etisalat number whereas I have never used an Etisalat number all my life..
Then came the arrest of six suspect who confessed to killing Olaitan Oyerinde by the DSS who later paraded the suspects before press men. They later handed the suspects to the same set of policemen led by Peter Gana and Chris Ezike, both men who were out to bury the truth. They simply wrote a report that the DSS suspects had recanted their confessions two days after the received the suspects.
During a later interaction with a media representative, Maisamari said he did not know me (David Ugolor). He revealed that he was tortured- including being shot on the leg by the police- during interrogation to implicate him. He also informed that Ugolor's photograph was brought to him two weeks before he (Ugolor) was arrested and brought to him for identification parade. In an exclusive report by Sahara Reporters, Maisamari was quoted as having confessed that he was shot three times to confess and that he did not know David Ugolor.
It was again later discovered that two of the suspects - Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman - whom the police claimed were the killers of Olaitan were already in the custody of Esigie police station, Benin City before the murder of Olaitan. It was again discovered that the guns tendered by the police investigators as the ones used to kill Olaitan were already in the custody of Esigie police station prior to the murder of Olaitan. This information was contained in the police report tendered in the Magistrate Court in Benin by Chris Ezike. This raised a curiosity as to whether the police released the suspects with the guns to go and kill Olaitan and return to the cell!
Two of us: Wilfred Iserhieirhien and I, were later discharged and acquitted same day by a Benin Magistrates' court for having no case to answer after all the police investigations and advice from the Attorney-General. A Benin High Court also declared my arrest and indefinite detention as unconstitutional. The trial Judge rebuked the Inspector General of Police for ‘his contemptuous attitude towards court orders and the rule of law’ and ordered the police to pay me 5 million naira as damages for unlawful arrest and framing me. The police appeal on the ruling is pending.
The police officers and men who bungled the investigation of the cruel murder of Olaitan equally recommended that they be promoted for their 'diligent jobs'! Behold, Chris Ezike, is now a Police Commissioner! Peter Gana also got his share from their master, M.D. Abubakar before he retired as IGP. This is the more you look, the less you see abracadabra of the out-going President, Goodluck Jonathan's administration.
This is bad and evil and such officers and men ought to have been shown the way out of the police system and thoroughly punished to serve as a deterrence to others because they constitute an evil influence on others and the institution of the Nigeria Police Force. One hopes the incoming administration will revisit this matter and bring the killers of Olaitan Oyerinde and those who shielded them all these while to book, because justice delayed is justice denied.
Rev. David Ugolor, Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), is currently a Post-Graduate Student at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.