By CLETUS EMOCHE AGADA
If the Benue State Command of the Nigeria Police Force expect their latest dance step in parading some four Fulani men as the suspects in the murder of the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo and Parish Priest of St. Bernard Catholic Church, Ugwu Okpoga, Rev’d Fr. John Adeyi, to earn them praises and accolades, then they are in for a very long night.
Like many who read the tales of the police as published by IPN online news over the weekend, I am one of those who initially believed without an outer of doubt that the paraded suspects are the true killers of Fr. Adeyi, but I’m now tempted to have a change of mind since it seems the police investigation and information available is not detailed and convincing enough.
It’s quite unfortunate that for a case as important as the murder of a reverend gentleman of Fr. Adeyi’s status which made national and international headlines, the police did not deem it fit to address a national press conference where journalists from different media houses would have been afforded the opportunity to ask both the police and the suspects questions agitating their minds, but elected to hold a “closed door” meeting with only the IPN.
That the glory and attention seeking Nigerian Police Force we all know will shy away from the press on a case that could earn them a merit award makes the whole thing more suspicious. It’s either they are not too sure of their own story or they are trying too hard to shield the Fulani tribe from national and international embarrassment which has already been well documented.
I spent the weekend in Otukpa, it’s my ancestral home and this is my first visit since May 14th, and considering the fact that Fr. Adeyi died within this period, it was an opportunity for me to hear what the people think about this murder and the news coming out of Makurdi that his killers have been arrested.
The things that I heard has left me with more questions than answers and I think it would be right to lay bare some of those things so that the police can handle this case with the seriousness it deserves.
First and foremost; Otukpa is one of the host communities of Fulani herdsmen, the police failed to established or tell us the connection between the arrested suspects and the Fulani community in Otukpa or Ogbadibo at large since it was reported that the gun used in killing Fr. Adeyi was recovered from a bush in Orokam, another herders host community.
Are they highway robbers who just came from nowhere to carry out a robbery operation at the Odoba hill? If they were highway robbers, why did they have to take Fr. Adeyi to the bush when they could have collected all he had from him on the road and let him go or even killed him there without any resistance from the unarmed road users – because from the account we have now, it can be deduced that they were not kidnappers but armed robbers – how could they have expected much from him in the bush when he could have had more in his car which was left untouched.
After the discovery of Fr Adeyi’s corpse in June, the Benue State Commissioner of Police told the world on a visit to the IGP in Abuja that a suspect was already in custody, is that suspect and many other speculated suspects [in between] among these four or this is a new set? If it’s a new set, why is the police not transparent with their investigation to let the people know what was going on and disabuse their minds to avoid rumour mongering and unnecessary speculations and what is the guarantee that another set will not emerge in the near future?
When Chief Bola Ige, the then Attorney-General of the federation was murdered in December 2001, the then AIG Abimbola Ojomo, the first female graduate to enroll into the Nigerian Police force, and ACP Haruna John, a professional police officer of the highest order who attained the rank of a DIG and died under questionable circumstances while carrying out an air surveillance of Fulani terrorist hideouts in Plateau State were in charge of the investigation and they succeeded in setting out a precedent of how investigation of such public interest should be handled.
There were several rumours as to what could have led to the assassination of the chief law officer of the state, but on more than two occasion, this crack team of detectives will issue a public statement informing the people that those avenues have been exploited, exhausted and dismissed as the assassination has to do with Osun State local politics. It was in pursuit of this single line of investigation after dismissing all distraction links that “Fryo” was declare wanted.
Even though it can be said today that that investigation was inconclusive, anybody that followed that investigation can testify to the fact that the police did a great job up to the point where politicians took over.
If that example is not clear enough to leave any lesson behind for our present day officers, they might need to pay a visit to our very own Abubakar Tsav, the former Lagos State Commissioner of police who as a young officer, was the IPO in charge of the investigation into the assassination of Dele Giwa by a parcel bomb in 1986.
In the course of his investigation, it was rumoured that Dele Giwa’s estranged wife, the now famous Florence Ita Giwa must have been the brain behind the assassination. But from his account at Oputa Panel, he exploited that option and dismissed it publicly as there was no enmity between the two estranged lovers. Imagine the damage that would have been done to Ita Giwa’s reputation if Tsav had not done that. This is where it’s important to state that justice is a two way thing.
There are many other examples like the murder of the two young Akindekos in Iyabo Obasanjo’s convoy in 2003 of which Muhammadu Buhari, Obasanjo’s opponent in the general election of that year who is always associated with political violence was the rumoured suspect, yet the police looked beyond that partisan angle to establish the culpability of the trans-border criminal, Hamani Tijjani of Benin Republic.
In the case of Fr. Adeyi, that the police would not make any statement about the rumour within the Catholic community in Otukpo Diocese that this murder has something to do with the internal politics of the diocese is a proof that they never even investigated it. Overlooking the crisis within St. Stephen Parish Otukpa, where Fr. Adeyi just left before he was “kidnapped” shows that the police does not have their ears to the ground or better still, they don’t have any interest in the healthy coexistence of that catholic community.
I was informed in Otukpa over the weekend that when Fr. Adeyi died, some persons made attempt to raze down the Parish, to the extent that the church was put under lock and key, stopping them from conducting a Sunday Mass, something that never happened in the history of the parish.
A crisis of such magnitude cannot be wished away simply by parading some Fulani men in secret just because it serves the interest of the police pay masters who does not want any crime of a Fulani man magnified.
Why did it take the police almost five months to identify the number used for that N1.7 million ransom demand, negotiation and payment when it is believed that all telephone lines in Nigeria are registered. Were the police not carried along in the ransom payment? How could it have taken them five good months to track down people that collected such a huge cash from them?
Last night, I came across Prince Yemi Itodo’s post that he does not believe in the cock and bull story of the police and as such, he refused to share or comment on it. As I wrote in an earlier Article on this matter, Yemi Itodo was the first person that broke the story of Fr. Adeyi’s kidnap on social media, he followed it up with an update on the “kidnappers” demand for ransom only to come out publicly to say he has be asked to pull down his previous posts and stop further updates as it was jeopardizing investigation.
How far has the police carried Yemi Itodo along in their investigations both as an informant. witness and/or a suspect. who are those people that asked Yemi to stop further update on this matter and what result did their investigation yield in the short term?
The questions are many and only the police and their sister security agencies can answer them all. But as I wrote in the comment box of the original news by IPN, if every piece of information in that story is true, then the police has truly found the killers [whether robbers or kidnappers] of Fr. Adeyi, yet, that is not enough because in this case, justice must not only be done, but justice must be seen to have been done.
As the police introduces another dance drama into the music album of unresolved murder cases in Nigeria, I can only wish them the best of luck in the interest of a safe, healthy and egalitarian society.