A mixture of excitement and cautious optimism, on Monday, trailed indications that the Federal Government may have ordered the re-opening of the cases on the assassination of two leading politicians, Chief Bola Ige and Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, which occurred in 2001 and 2004 respectively.
Obviously overwhelmed by the report, eminent citizens, groups and professionals outlined some concrete steps that the authorities must take to gurantee justice over what many see as one of the most horrendous killings that astounded the world.
Some of the suggestions included need for scientific and professional investigation and prosecution this time around, as well as inclusion of other mysterious killings over the years and not classifying any one critical to give evidence on the cases as a sacred cow.
This came as the Presidency, on Monday, clarified its position on the reported directive to the acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to reopen the murder cases.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said there was no such directive from President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the reopening of the cases was the initiative of the new leadership of the police which, he said, was intent on acquiring credibility.
The presidential aide said in doing such work, the police leadership did not require a presidential directive.
Ige, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, was assassinated in his Ibadan residence by assailants at about 9.00 p.m. on December 23, 2001, after he arrived Ibadan from Lagos at about 8.30 p.m.
Dikibo, a former national deputy chairman (South-South) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was said to have been ambushed and killed by assassins near Asaba, Delta State, on October 22, 2004.
Afenifere lauded the move to reopen the unresolved assassination of Ige and Dikibo and the need to bring the perpetrators to book.
The group, which stated this through its secretary-general, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, in Akure, Ondo State, said the searchlight should not be limited to those two cases but should be extended to other political assassinations in the country.
According to Arogbofa, “It is not just Bola Ige alone but, we must go back to know who killed Dele Giwa, we must also know those who killed Pa Alfred Rewane and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola; all these are more or less political killings and we must know those behind them and why, so as to guide against future occurrence.
“As regards Chief Bola Ige’s murder, I think well-meaning Nigerians will like to know who killed him, because his death is so shrouded with some mysteries and I know Nigerians will be interested to know people behind his murder,” he said.
A foremost nationalist and leading figure in Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, expressed delight over the move to revisit the matter.
Chief Adebanjo, however, expressed utter disgust that issue over the assassination of Ige had remained unresolved for years, hoping that the present administration would exhibit the courage, will and honesty necessary to ensuring justice this time round.
“It is a welcome development. Anyone suspected should be investigated. The murder of Ige happened when Obasanjo was the president of this country. The Federal Government must honestly pursue this case to a logical conclusion this time around,” Chief Adebanjo said.
Another senior citizen, Senator Femi Okurounmu, expressed delight, while advising the authorities to ensure due diligence in handling the issue.
He said all major actors during the period when the assassinations were carried out should be invited to assist in unravelling the riddle behind the incidents, in order to gurantee justice.
“I don’t know how many of the witnesses that are still alive. They should invite all the witnesses again and take their statements afresh. They should look at the reports of the judges who handled the case at the time. I recalled that one of them was fired. They should also invite former President Obasanjo to tell us what he know about the death of his former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice,” he said.
Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, said with the move, justice would be served on the unresolved murder of the former Minister of Justice.
Speaking through his director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, Aregbesola simply stated that “we appreciate the reopening of the case as we believe the cause of justice, maintenance of law and order as well as curbing impunity will be served.”
But the spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun, Mr Diran Odeyemi, maintained that the development showed that President Buhari was interested in the past so as to know the present and possibly prevent an ugly incident re-occurring in the future.
“We want to tell him that there is no way he can achieve a tangible result by limiting the scope of the killing to Bola Ige and Dikibo alone. We would have expected him to go a little further and extend the re-opening of high profile murder cases to Odunayo Olagbaju, who was killed in Ile-Ife, Kudirat Abiola, who was killed in Lagos State, Rilwane and Chief M.K.O Abiola, who died in a mysterious circumstance while in detention.
“We would have appreciated it if Mr President had extended the re-opening of investigation into at least past 10 cases of high profile killings. He should not limit it to two cases,” he said.
Former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, said it was imperative to bring all those individuals behind the gruesome murders to book.
But he urged the Federal Government to reopen other similar cases of unresolved assassinations over the years in the interest of justice.
A former national publicity secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Ayo Opadokun, however, said he could not react to the development until he had full information on the matter.
Also, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) said that the power to reopen the case resided with the Attorney-General of the state where the case was being handled.
Jegede said the case could be revisited if there were fresh evidences to bring the culprits to book, noting that the “case has taken about 15 years but if there’s fresh evidence, they should bring it up, if there’s fresh evidence that would compel prosecution, the state Attorney-General would decide.”
On whether the re-opening of the cases could be an attempt to clampdown on the opposition, Jegede said “we are all witnesses to a lot of things happening in the country and each person has his or her own opinion.”
A constitutional lawyer, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the move was desirable, adding, however, that the initiative should cover other unresolved mysterious killings in the country.
“Ordinarily, it should be great news to learn of the attempt by the acting IGP to re-open certain pending and unravelled murder cases.
“Legally, this is desirable, as time does not run against the state in the prosecution of offenders. However, the IGP should not limit his focus to these two cases or indeed only the prominent cases, but also extend it to all cases of mysterious deaths, especially deaths that do frequently occur in police custody,” he said.
A former NBA chairman, Ikeja branch, Mr Monday Onyekachi Ubani, also described the development as a good one, while he advised that cases of Dele Giwa and others should be added.
Meanwhile, indication emerged, on Monday, that all suspects arrested at the commencement of the investigation in 2002 may be re-arrested.
“Real killers should be unmasked and punished. They should be scientific and professional this time around. New sheriff is in town and that should inspire a thorough job and confidence,” he said.