Revisiting high-profile murder cases
ON account of the gruesomeness of the killing of some prominent Nigerians, the passage of time has not healed the wounds inflicted on the nation. And the cry for justice remains justifiably loud.
The citizens continue to live with the searing memory of unresolved killings, including those of the celebrated journalist, Dele Giwa, elder statesman Alfred Rewane, former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Chief Bola Ige and top politicians Funso Williams, Harry Marshal, Aminasoari K. Dikibo and many others.
The realisation that only an effective resolution of these murder cases would assuage the troubled conscience of the nation has made the call for their investigation persistent over the years. Nigerians indeed want these murders investigated and the culprits appropriately punished to serve as a deterrent to the further commission of such heinous crimes.
When the call for renewed investigation of these murders was made again, the other day, by the House of Representatives, it was yet another reminder of the gash on the soul of Nigeria. The lawmakers asked the police to include in their investigations the killings of some traders at Apo, popularly known as the Apo Six, and the invasion by mobile policemen and armed soldiers of Ogoniland in Rivers State and Odi community in Bayelsa State.
Their call is one that resonates with the citizenry. However, in view of the fact that the nation’s security agencies have failed to successfully investigate these murder cases over the years, it would amount to false hope to still expect them to undertake any probe in this regard. For instance, the police have had almost three decades since 1986 when Dele Giwa was killed to fish out the culprits. On Alfred Rewane, it has been almost two decades while Bola Ige was killed a decade and a half ago.
It is, therefore, necessary for the lawmakers to consider a more effective way of undertaking these investigations with a view to resolving the murder cases. And no persons are better suited for the assignment than the lawmakers themselves. It is good that they have referred the matter to their committees on Police Affairs, Public Safety and National Security. But these committees should not be to just monitor the investigations of the cases and present an interim report to the House.
Rather, they should fully be in charge of the investigations, of course, with the comprehensive use of all security agencies. On these cases, the police and other security bodies should only assist the lawmakers; it is the responsibility of the lawmakers to get to the root of the murders. Clearly, undertaking such investigations would be in line with the oversight functions of the lawmakers.
Section 88(i) of the 1999 Constitution says that “ subject to the provisions of this constitution, each house of the National Assembly shall have power… to direct or cause to be directed an investigation into: Any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws; and the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department…” Unfortunately, successive National Assemblies have not really exercised this oversight power to the benefit of the citizens. Rather, whenever lawmakers exercise this power it has largely been for personal aggrandisement. This is because members of committees either in the Senate or the House of Representatives often see an investigation as an opportunity to intimidate and receive favour, from those they are supposed to investigate.
But since expectations are high that these current lawmakers would chart a different legislative path marked by diligent execution of their duties and adherence to the demands of probity, a direct legislative inquest into this high-profile murders would be a good start. The legislators could indeed learn from other nations of the world how legislative oversight functions are undertaken and bring such experience to bear on their work. Responsible legislatures effectively exercise their oversight powers in the interest of the public.
The United States Congress’ oversight powers were demonstrated in the investigation of the Watergate scandal in 1973-1974; Iran-Contra affair in 1987; and the China’s acquisition of U.S. nuclear weapons information in 1999. Also, in 1974, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee to explain his pardon of his predecessor, President Richard M. Nixon. From the wide endorsement the motion for the investigations received in the House of Representatives, it is safe to posit that the lawmakers are passionate about unraveling the mysterious circumstances surrounding these high-profile murders.
But they should go beyond just showing interest. They must, as a body, undertake the investigations in order to get the right results. This is what would bring justice to the victims of brutal murders and their families, and relief to a traumatised nation.