Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the police authorities to reopen most of the nation’s unresolved high profile murder cases elicits a glimmer of hope that justice might have been delayed, it will not be denied, after all.
Specifically, the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris has received an order to reopen well-known cases of alleged murders and assassinations that the same police authorities abandoned at the investigation or prosecution stages. Such cases include that of the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige and former Deputy National Chairman, South South of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Aminosari Dikibo.
The cold-blooded murder of these eminent Nigerians had caused national outrage, with the people calling on the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to fish out the killers. They were never found and investigation and prosecution were either inconclusive or abandoned like others before them.
Chief Bola Ige was shot dead in his Bodija, Ibadan home at 9p.m. on December 23, 2001 soon after he arrived in Ibadan from Lagos. The former Attorney-General’s security details were said to have obtained permission to have their dinner outside the house when tragedy struck. The gunmen who were said to have been waiting in the vicinity struck when they tied up family members.
The same horrible fate befell Aminosari Dikibo, a Peoples Democratic Party National Vice-Chairman in February 2004.
There are other puzzling assassinations including that of Marshall Harry, the National Vice-Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign coordinator in 2003. He was brutally murdered before the 2003 presidential election.
In 2002, Barnabas Igwe, chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (Onitsha branch), and his wife, Abigail, were victims of the rampant killings. No one has told Nigerians about the killers of Alfred Rewane, an elder statesman who was killed during the struggle for the actualisation of June 12, 1993 election result. Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of the historic June 12, 1993 election, was also murdered in broad-day light in Lagos during the same epic struggle.
Also unresolved was the July 2006 assassination of Funsho Williams, a PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos State. The cases have been galling because of the shoddy way security agencies often deliberately muddled up the investigations and trials. When the killings became intolerable, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, was forced to label the then ruling PDP “a nest of killers.”
The list is endless. On May 4, 2012 Nigerians woke up too to the chilling news of the assassination of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Unknown gunmen had invaded the Government Reservation Area (GRA) home of the Osun State born political aide, bound the security men on duty, broke into the main building and shot the man to death.
Shortly before Oyerinde was killed in Benin, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) gubernatorial aspirant for Ogun State, Dipo Dina, was also murdered.
Besides these famous politicians who were felled by assassins’ bullets, there were other remarkable Nigerians, particularly prominent journalists who had been cut down in their prime by gunmen who were never discovered. Examples include Newswatch magazine co-founder, Dele Giwa who was murdered in his study in Ikeja, Lagos in 1986; Bagauda Kaltho, an activist journalist who was killed in a Kaduna hotel in the wake of June 12 crisis in 1993; Mr. Godwin Agbroko, Chairman of Thisday’s Editorial Board; Abayomi Ogundeji who was a member of Thisday’s Editorial Board and the Assistant News Editor of The Guardian, Bayo Ohu, among others.
It is a shame that none of the cases since 1986 has been satisfactorily resolved by Nigeria’s police authorities that have just been ordered to reopen some of the cases.
Non- conclusion nature of investigations and prosecutions of murder cases has been part of Nigeria’s reproachful character. Diplomats and business partners know us for the fact that murder or assassination cases have always been abandoned and memories of evidence always fade from both prosecutors and defendants until one presidential brainwave gives a fresh order for continuation.
This is another garland of shame for our police as an institution created by the constitution for internal security. It is clear too that the justice administration system has been complacent or complicit.
While commitment of the president to the reopening of some of the cases is commendable, no one should play politics with the dead anymore. There should be diligent investigation and prosecution. This will give a sense of hope to Nigerians that a culture of impunity can end in the land. It will also assure the world that lives matter in Nigeria.