Twenty-nine years on, Dele Giwa’s ghost still crying for justice
The submissions, so far, of all the dramatis personae in the latest ‘conversation’ pointed to the need for the reopening of investigation of the killing through parcel bomb 29 years ago.
Even, the retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, now Archbishop Christopher Akhigbe Omeben, whose recent ‘passing’ comment during the church service to mark his 80th birthday anniversary sparked the latest debate would be glad if investigation is reopened and concluded. He clocked 80 on October 27.
In a recent newspaper interview, the former DIG had responded to a question on reopening the murder case thus: “If they insist, why shouldn’t it be reopened? Why can’t it be reopened? But this question of you guiding or programming the investigator is a wrong approach.”
Although, Omeben inherited the murder case, he however described it as the biggest and last case he handled as police officer, perhaps, the reason why he had offered to assist in unearthing the mystery surrounding the killing in case investigation is reopened.
He said further in the interview, “I would have it properly investigated. Let (Kayode) Soyinka give himself up to the police. Omeben has been talking about it since, let him come up and give himself to the police. Let him bring his travel documents and all and the police would compare with what they have. They should also re-invite Akilu and co. Time is never against the state. They should be subjected to lie detectors. If they want me to come to lie detector to know whether or not I am fabricating things, I will come. When they do that, the truth will be known.”
But Omeben’s insistence that the murder case might not be conclusively resolved unless certain friends of the slain journalist are properly investigated has degenerated to naming callings and exchange of hot words, especially on the pages of newspapers.
Mr. Ray Ekpu, the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch also in a newspaper interview reacting to Omeben’s insinuation said, “Mr. Omeben is lying either to cover his tracks or to cover police’s incompetence; he should stop singing like a canary telling different stories. Is it that he is compromised and he wants his paymasters to see that he is pushing their case. We’ve been here for 29 years and nobody is arresting us. Why? Because nobody believes we are the ones who did it. I am therefore challenging him to a meeting on any television. Let us meet and discuss; let him face me on a television interview – let us talk. Let Nigerians listen and ask us questions. I challenge any Nigerian TV station that wants to take this up to bring Omeben face-to-face with me. I am ready. It has become a public issue; no more an issue between Chris Omeben and Ray Ekpu and his colleagues…”
But if the interest of the parties connected to this case was to get to its roots, it is important to listen to the wise counsel offered by some lawyers recently calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to activate a fresh investigation of Giwa’s murder.
Prominent lawyer, Fred Agbaje was quoted in a newspaper report to have said, “As the President of Nigeria and someone who was overwhelmingly voted for in the spirit of change, he must not allow this case to go without being thoroughly investigated.”
Agbaje premised his submission on recent utterances of the interested persons in the matter. He was reported to have said, “So, with regard to what the interested persons have said, it is high time that the case file be retrieved from the archives in the interest of the Nigerian public, the tax payers, generations yet unborn and in the interest of accountability, probity and responsibility in governance as well as in the interest of maintaining the sanctity of humanity.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Omeben is happy that 26 after his retirement from the police, the virtues of integrity, credibility and humility he showcased as DIG are still being celebrated.
In an interaction with journalists shortly before his 80th birthday anniversary celebration, the Ishan, Edo State-born cleric had said, “It was on the lips of the ordinary man who was old enough in 1989 when I retired that Chris Omeben was against anything that had to do with bribery and corruption. I didn’t believe in it because I was satisfied with what I got as my salary. I remember a case that happened in 1988 when a white man approached me to jail somebody, who is a prominent politician now, on a flimsy offence.
“The white man and the lady that led him to my office brought 300,000 Pounds Sterling. I turned the money down. I called the white man and said, ‘The fellow you want me to jail was a Deputy Commissioner of Police. And moreover, the offence is minor. Can’t you settle?’ The Nigerian lady that followed him later came back and said, ‘Oga, come and open an account in Nigeria Bank of Commerce and Industry,’ that the money would be put there. I said I was not interested. So if there was any legacy I left behind, it is my integrity I left intact.”
On how to confront Nigeria’s security challenges, Omeben recommends an all-inclusive approach, saying, “If all these people involved in security can put their act together there will be a solution. For instance, in the police force, everybody is talking about corruption; it can be whittled down if there is an improvement, particularly, in the recruitment policy. If you go along the street, you find some young policemen who are good enough to be in secondary school or at vocation centres parading themselves as police officers. Some of them cannot speak any good English. This upsets me a lot. If we can adopt the British pattern, the situation will be remedied. For instance, in Britain, if a 36-year-old woman or man wants to join the police it is allowed on a condition that with your age and working experience, you cannot spend more than 15 years in the police. They employ them as Constables and the British system believes with their experience they are in a better position to handle the affairs in their community and around them. Police doesn’t have to look for accommodation for you because you are an established citizen and after your training you start work. In Nigeria, they are recruited at a very tender age because they want them to spend 35 years in the service. Thirty five years of what? I will advise the authorities to get people who are experienced in other sectors to join the force and carry on from there.”
He admitted that in the Police, welfare had always been an issue only that it has gone worse lately. “In my days, there was a policy that no policeman must go on traffic duty with more than N5 in his pocket. If you act contrary, you will be dismissed. But today, the reverse is the case, as some policemen would even give you change at the road blocks. I have seen it, which is shameful.”
He believes strongly in the decentralisation of police force, insisting, “the police should have been decentralised long time ago. The excuse they, the authorities, always give, that the police will be misused by the politicians, is not tenable.”
On why there is growing distrust between the citizen and the police despite the refrain that ‘the police is your friend’ he said, “it is because the spirit of that assertion is not being displayed. For me, there must be a match of words with action. Indeed, the police is expected to be the friend of the public because they emanate from the public and if they fail they have failed themselves.”
Comparing the integrity of the Nigeria Police today with what obtained in his days as a career officer, he said, “the integrity was very high and intact because the amount of complaints we have today is much higher than what we had in our own time. There were so many things we couldn’t do in our time. For instance, if you were an Inspector or ASP and you bought a car without a loan, the CID would be after you, trying to find out where you got the money. A colleague of mine was working in the motor traffic division in Ikeja and bought a Triumph motorcycle when we were still Inspectors. He was questioned how he got the money and he couldn’t explain.
“The white officer said he was a corrupt man and because of that he was denied promotion. He suffered it for many years before he left the force. Fixing of air-conditioner in your house then was a taboo. It was considered a luxury. Today, if you go to the barracks you will find Sergeants and Constables having air-conditioners in their homes and nobody is asking questions.”