Murder cases are not closed. Investigations continue until the culprits are brought to justice.
With this at the back of its mind, the House of Representatives last week directed the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase to reopen investigation into the death of former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Chief Bola Ige (SAN), seasoned industrialist Pa Alfred Rewane, frontline journalist Dele Giwa and others.
For instance, the question: Who killed Dele Giwa? remains unanswered 28 years after the founding Newswatch Editor-in-Chief was killed. Will the killers ever be found?
Some critics have argued that reopening the cases would amount to a waste of resources because many of them were thrown out of court for want of diligent prosecution.
They argued that unless there are fresh facts that can lead to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, the government should concentrate on combating crime.
Some of the murders
For 28 years, Giwa’s blood has been crying for justice. He was killed on October 19, 1986 through a parcel bomb delivered at his Ikeja, Lagos home. It was insinuated that the then Gen Ibrahim Babangida had a hand in Giwa’s death. He was 39.
Despite the public outcry over his death, Giwa’s killers are yet to be brought to justice.
Chief Rewane, a business mogul, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) financier and a strong critic of the late General Sani Abacha regime was killed in 1994 in his GRA Ikeja, Lagos home by unknown gunmen.
Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola was killed on the heels of Rewane’s death.
Chief Ige was killed on December 23, 2001, at his Ibadan residence.
Dr. Obi Wali, a Rivers State born politician, was killed in the early 90’s in his Port Harcourt residence. His killers are still unknown.
All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) stalwart Chief Marshal Harry, was killed on March 5, 2003, but his killers are still free.
Others are Funsho Williams; Aminosari Dikibo; Ogbonnaya Uche; Andrew Agom; Igwe Barnabas and his wife, Abigail.
Williams, who was strangled in his Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, residence on July 27, 2006, was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A cemetery attendant, Bashir Junaid, who was arrested and detained by the police during preliminary investigation into Williams’ death, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking a mandamus order compelling the Inspector-General of Police to conduct fresh investigation with the possibility of a fresh trial.
Junaid alleged that the police disregarded his free statement, which could have assisted them to know who killed Williams.
He claimed that the evidence that he tendered was dscarded by the Federal Central Investigation Department (FCID), Alagbon, Lagos.
Why murders remain unresolved
There have been concerns about the police’s inability to solve execution killings and other high-profile crimes. Many reasons may account for the police’s inability to to track these killers.
Some analysts believe that corruption is so widespread that suspects can pay their way out of prosecution. Although the police may have strong leads and evidence, such can be traded for money and the case allowed to die a natural death.
It is also difficult for the police to go after killers where they are closely connected to the government. A government with killers within it will not back efforts to bring culprits to book.
Also, the police inability to apply forensic science in unraveling murders has not helped matters. Besides, poor funding is also a handicap, with most policemen ill motivated.
Although Nigerians have repeatedly demanded justice for the deceased and other murdered persons, the seeming helplessness of the police as well as curious silence of successive governments on the issue have made many to believe that the state was sanctioning extra-judicial killings as alleged by human rights groups.
But lawyers who spoke on the issue, endorsed the move by the legislators, noting that it will end the reign of impunity in the country.
They argued that there was no time frame to investigate a criminal matter, urging the police to ensure adequate evidence is gathered.
To Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN), the lawmakers should be invited by the Inspector-General of Police to offer evidence or leads that would be of help to the agency.
‘‘I do not think there is anything wrong with the resolution by the honourable members.What I expect the Inspector-General of Police to do upon receipt of the resolution is to invite the members who moved the motion to come forward and offer the evidence or leads that would assist the Police in reopening the cases.
‘‘It’s not a question of just passing a resolution; they should supply the evidence. It seems the evidence may not have been destroyed as erroneously thought.
‘‘However, if the honourables fail to supply the required evidence to the Police, the case files should remain closed. As there is no statute of limitation for crimes, whenever the evidence is adduced, the case files could be re-opened,’’ he said.
Activist lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) believes that the resolution is in accord with the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to reopen illegal killings and end impunity in the country.
‘‘Since there is no statute of limitation, murder cases which were covered up can be reopened now. Because killers were not prosecuted in the past, life has been devalued. In the last six months not less than 80 people have been killed by armed gangs in Lagos area alone.
‘‘In many parts, assassins, kidnappers, robbers and terrorists are having a field day. Occasionally, some suspects are paraded and then illegally executed by the police without any trial. The officially sanctioned murder has to stop. The investigation ordered by the house is in the interest of the country,’’ said Falana.
For Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) who noted that the House does not have the power to give the IGP directive, however said the resolution was commendable..
He said: “Although it is a commendable initiative, the House of Representatives must know that it has no such powers as to give directives to the IGP.
‘‘That is the function of the executive and the legislators must read the constitution very well to know the limitations of their powers. They can only pass resolutions or recommend to the IGP not giving him directives.
‘‘Having said that and despite the term directive being a misnomer, I think the current executive should reopen investigation of those state murders and assassination in order to bring the culprits to book.
‘‘I was one of the prosecutors in the case of late Bola Ige and I can tell you that the executive arm of government at that time bungled the prosecution. They did everything possible to frustrate the prosecution of the suspect.
‘‘One of the key witnesses that the prosecution team hoped to rely on based on his statement at the police, was later discovered, to have spent about a year in the same cell with the accused person.
‘‘The executive arm then was not interested and it won’t be a bad idea for this government to reopen the cases, since there is no statute of limitation on criminal matters.
‘‘A lot of questions remain unanswered, like why AIG Mrs. Ojomo was transferred? It will gladden our hearts if all culprits of state murders are brought to book.’’
For Norrison Quakers (SAN), the lawmakers’ intervention is in order and murder investigation can be reopened.
He said: “It is important to note that Legislative Powers of the Federation is vested in the two legislative arms of the Nigerian State and the powers are well defined and spelt out in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“It includes, but not limited to making laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation including the federations units (States) in relation to matters within the exclusive legislative list set out in the Constitution and the Police and other government security services of the government of the Federation come within the purview of the National Assembly. Which power, I believe must be jointly exercised.
“It is commendable that the House of Representatives has given this directive, but in my view, crimes committed cannot be barred by time.
“There is no legislation in Nigeria, that states that criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution must be conducted and concluded within a specific time frame.
“It is against this backdrop that, I can safely say that whether the House of Reps directs or not, the Police as .
“The oversight functions of the legislature over institutions of government saddled with security, must include funding towards training of personnel, acquisition of machinery and state of the art technology in enforcement, prevention, investigation and prosecution.
“If we reflect on the statement made by the retired Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, that he presided over a poorly equipped military, it will give us insight into why our agencies saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring protection of lives and property, prevention of crimes, investigation and prosecution are unable to do discharge there constitutional duties.
“Perhaps, with the emergence of this new government, funding will no longer be an issue. If the right technology is acquired and deployed, substantial progress will be made in the several unsolved murders.
“So, the families still in grief will give sighs of relief, if the investigations are reopened, findings are made, persons culpable are arrested, tried and subsequently convicted.
“I believe, the House of Reps in their oversight functions over the Police, has called on the IGP to reopen the cases. I appreciate the fears expressed such as assembling of witnesses, collation of evidence, possible destruction of existing evidence, unwillingness of some persons coming forward etc, but as a country, we must move forward.
“It is for the new IGP to request for the macro and micro tools, the institution he is heading needs to successfully carry out the legislative directive.”