Information management among security agencies has hit a brick wall, or so it seems. Ditto with information sharing which should be the hallmark of effective crime control. With this, prosecution of criminal cases is in trouble and the result, can be as confusing, compounding and off-putting as it comes.
No case in recent time has brought the above description home than the death (and arrest of principal suspects) of Olaitan Ojerinde—the Principal Private Secretary to the Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole. Ojerinde was murdered at his residence in Benin City on May 4, 2012 at a time the governorship campaign in the state was at its acrimonious best.
Last week, the State Security Service,( SSS) paraded six suspects—Muhammed Ibrahim Abdulahi, Raymond Onajite Origbo, Chikezie Ede, while Saidu Yakubu, Sani Abdulahi Abubakar and Hassan Bashiru as buyers of stolen goods were paraded along with them. In a well articulated revelation and corroborations by the suspects as recorded by the SSS and brought to fore by its spokesperson, Marylin Ogar, the suspects ‘owned up’ to the offence. The SSS said it was not an assassination, but a robbery case gone awry, and that Ojerinde was given up for the dead due to the careless statements made by his security guard.
Unfortunately for the SSS, its acclaimed achievement in cracking the crime is now a subject of controversy and doubts, owing to the previous revelations by the Police. The Police had earlier paraded suspects who named, one Reverend David Ugolor, a human rights activist as their sponsor. As at today, Ugolor is still being held, with the Police claiming that investigation about the level of his involvement is ongoing. The Reverend was close to the Ojerindes. He was the last person to see him alive, and was the first person Ojerinde’s wife cried out to for help. How a friend of the Ojerindes became a foe, and later a suspect is astounding to the public. But it should not be so to the security agencies, if there is no other motive and if they know what they are doing. And that is precisely the point. Do they really know what they are doing or are there powerful forces behind their actions?
The crack in their circle is a revelation in absurdity. How is it possible for two groups—one in Benin and another in Abuja to kill and claim responsibility for the same offence? A new angle to the plot also came to the open this week. The suspects paraded by the SSS wore the same shirts that suspects accused in the kidnap and murder of Briton Christopher MacManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara in Sokoto wore. Obviously someone is playing game with a murder case.
When the SSS paraded its own suspects, there was no reference to the police’s claims earlier. This has further cast a shadow on the whole saga and the possibility that the security agencies are working at cross purposes and serving different interests.
The division between the SSS and Police is further raising questions on the nation’s long search for solutions to criminal acts and its inability to resolve the quandary. If this ‘small matter’ of Ojerinde’s death cannot be successfully investigated, is it then a surprise that the nation is groping in the dark in resolving the Boko Haram threat?
Effective crime monitoring and control is almost impossible without inter-agency collaboration. What has happened to that age-long dictum? Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry the theatrics that followed the parade of suspects in the death of then ANPP stalwart, Harry Marshal and PDP South South Vice Chairman, Alfred Aminasaori Dikibo. In the two instances, wrong suspects were paraded, the prosecution could not sustain their cases and they were thrown out. Again the killers of Bola Ige, the then Attorney-General and minister of Chief Justice, Funsho William and a host of others, all fizzled out. These are reasons why over the years Nigerians have lost confidence in the nation’s security agencies. If the government’s renewed vigour in the Ojerinde case was a surprise twist, the contradictory investigation is proof of some vested interest, and not necessarily for justice to be served. And with the way things are now, the case, might again be bungled, just the way others before it were botched.
It’s instructive to note that unresolved murder cases abound in our clime without their resolution either by the Police or SSS. Ordinarily, Nigerians should celebrate this new thinking, but we are constrained to do so because of the seeming clash of interest of the parties involved in the investigation and the forces/interests behind them. Is politics behind the inconsistency? Perhaps.
Edo state is under the control of the ACN. When the assassination took place, accusing fingers were being pointed at the PDP. Could it be that the snappy investigation, as opposed to the lethargy of the past was informed by the need to clear PDP’s or ACN’s name in the murder mess? And why do we have different verdicts if politics is not a factor? Is the Edo investigation (by the Police) influenced by the ACN government, while that of Abuja (by the SSS) was influenced by the PDP apparatchiks at the centre?
The overzealousness of both security agencies, to probably give their principal a clean bill of health, has at best compounded an already complicated case. And Nigerians are circumspect and not impressed by their convoluted ‘effort’. This discordant tune speaks volumes in the way we handle national security issues, especially the Boko Haram insurgency, oil bunkering and kidnapping in the South. Who should be held responsible for intelligence failure that has bedevilled the operation of JTFs? Is it the military, the SSS or the Police? Too many cooks they say, spoil the brook. The outcome of Ojerinde’s murder investigation, however it goes, is already tainted. The suspects (whoever they may be and whichever court they may be tried) only need to put together a good legal team to wriggle out of murder allegation.