Taiwo Balogun: Saraki and Offa bank robbery: Before the innocent is convicted

June 14, 2018
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Permit me to say loud and clear that the recent revelations by the Nigerian Police under the leadership of IGP Ibrahim Idris, linking the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Bukola Saraki to the unfortunate bank robbery that took place in Offa, Kwara State few weeks ago is not only disturbing but appears to be an attempt to implicate him.

No doubt, the killing of not less than 33 people, among whom were nine policemen, is not only inhuman, it is also unfortunate, a sad incident and a crime against the nation and humanity in general.

However, it is saddening for the number one crime control agency in Nigeria to come up with such a spurious allegation against Saraki; that a two-term Governor of the State of Harmony, a two-term Senator and now Senate President is a major sponsor of a robbery incident. Many have asked: What else could Saraki be looking for? Is it money to buy the entire nation or what? The answer is a blatant No.

Though Saraki has stated clearly that he did not send the boys on the robbery expedition and he had no knowledge of their evil deeds, it is essential to state that the entire scenario smacks of an attempt by the IGP to smear Saraki with the toga of criminality, which will never succeed.

“He who comes to equity must come with clean hands”, so says that popular adage. However, the officers of the Nigerian Police, who at this point want everyone to believe they are really working, seem to be approaching equity with the dirtiest of hands.

Why this conclusion?

Why will the Police invite Saraki, who did not partake in the crime and who didn’t in anyway order the robbers to commit the crime? Why would he be invited over an offence he has no knowledge of? Did any of the robbers mention Saraki as their sponsor or the planner of the robbery? These and more are the questions begging for answers.

This scenario has led many to the conclusion that Saraki’s invitation, after all, may not be unconnected with the recent face-off between the two principals – arising from the invitation of the IGP by the Senate over the rampant killings that have pervaded the nation.

We should recall that Saraki had, before his invitation over the robbery incident, raised an alarm that the Police had concluded plans to frame him, as well as his successor, Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed of Kwara State, for a crime. And just few weeks later, they were named as sponsors of the robbery incident. As the Yoruba will say, “Aje ke lana, Omo ku leni, Taani ko mo wipe Aje ana lo pa omo je?” (The witch squeaked yesterday and the child died today, who doesn’t know that it is yesterday’s witch that is responsible for today’s child’s death?)

As such, the invitation and the linking of Saraki and Governor Ahmed with the Offa robbery could actually be a mere misrepresentation of facts, a frame-up and a witch hunt.

The fact that those boys referred to Saraki as their “god-father” should not be taken seriously, as everyone knows that politicians have many “god” sons and daughters who sometimes use their influence with such politicians to have their way.

Virtually all Nigerian politicians, from North to South, East to West, Lagos to Kano, Ibadan to Port Harcourt, Balyesa to Sokoto, Jos to Enugu, PDP or APC, have boys who follow them, and who use the influence of such political godfathers in all areas of human endeavour. However, such influence must not be used to commit crimes against humanity.

We have heard a situation where someone who was afraid of his land being snatched by land grabbers in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital reportedly erected a sign board that read; “This land belongs to Chief Lamidi Adedibu”. He simply used the influence of the then strongman of Ibadan politics to protect his land from land thieves and marauders, commonly known as “omo oniles”. When the story got to Adedibu, he inquired from the man why he decided to erect a signpost bearing his name on the piece of land. The man replied that he actually used Adedibu’s influence as a cover, to protect it from the land grabbers. Adedibu thereafter demonstrated uncommon benevolence; he immediately mobilized blocks and other materials to the said piece of land, completed the building of a befitting house on it, and promptly handed over the keys of the brand new house to the obviously surprised and elated man.

In Lagos, for example, unfettered license was reportedly given to “executive” political thugs during the first tenure of then Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu to shape the political landscape in his favour. This was strategically achieved by placing the thugs under the cover of labour groups, particularly the NURTW (National Union of Road Transport Workers).

The government of Asiwaju Tinubu understood the major impact the NURTW could have in the political terrain of Lagos. NURTW bosses who were not loyal to the ordinances of the then Governor Tinubu were reportedly advised to step down, or suffer a forceful removal via assassination, an example of which is the alleged murder of Saka Saula.

In Lagos Island, Kunle Poly recently escaped an assassination attempt by Ade Lawyer, who initially claimed that one of the former leaders of the NURTW, Alhaji Rafiu Akanni Olohunwa had requested for his assassination. Kunle Poly’s deputy, Ganiyu Ayinla (Pinero) was however not as lucky. He was killed by Ade Lawyer’s bullets. The embattled Olohunwa was later granted bail when Ade Lawyer, a notorious assassin who confessed to have killed 100 people, later claimed to have lied against him. Till date, all the suspects arrested alongside Ade Lawyer are yet to be charged to court.

The unsolved murder which resulted in Bola Ige’s and Funsho Williams’ deaths for suspected political reasons remain a misery till date. While Bola Ige, the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was shot dead by gunmen in his Bodija, Ibadan home in 2001, Funsho Williams, a formidable political adversary of Tinubu was assassinated in 2006 ahead of the 2007 gubernatorial election in Lagos State. There is a pressing need for the Buhari administration to revisit the circumstances that led to their deaths and bring the culprits to justice.

Tompolo, Asari Dokubo and other Niger Delta warlords were also at some point used by politicians to further their interests. Many of them later embraced the late YarAdua’s Amnesty programme, thus ending several years of pipeline vandalisation and kidnappings in the region as at that time.

While the politicians and the former militants are today living large in our society, proliferation of illicit weapons continues unabated. For instance, when the Buhari government recently embarked on a disarmament drive across the country, about 92 guns, including 12 AK47 rifles, 3 pump action rifles, 1 FNC rifle, 4 long assault rifles and 3 Bareta guns were recovered from unnamed individuals within a week of the disarmament special operation.

The mind-boggling question is; where do these thugs-turned-robbers or assassins get guns? From political leaders of course!

The fight against Saraki on thug sponsorship would therefore not be complete until the searchlight of thug sponsorship in beamed on all politicians. Just few weeks ago, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege was alleged to have invaded the Senate with thugs, who made away with the Senate’s mace, its symbol of authority. It is obvious that Saraki is not the only Nigerian Senator or politician allegedly using thugs for political activities. Like Omo-Agege, almost every Senator and an overwhelming majority of Nigerian politicians have thugs which they arm as they proceed with their political voyage. Lagos, commonly reputed as the beehive of political thuggery, should not be exempted when clearing the menace of political and criminal violence in Nigeria.

But is Dr Saraki perturbed? Obviously not! Looking at pictures of him which were circulated on social media on Saturday, shortly after he completed his 2018 Umrah in Makkah, it is clear that it is business as usual for him; religious, legislative and of course political. His post on Facebook read thus; “Alhamdulilahi Robil al-amin. I just completed the Umrah rites in the Holy Mosque. May the Almighty Allah (SWT) accept our prayers. Amin.”

As the investigation continues, the Nigeria Police Force under IGP Idris should acutely ensure it does not politicise this rather sensitive issue. It should not be turned to a media trial, the same way the Saraki trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) went, before he was finally vindicated and all the 18 charges of false assets declaration brought against him were dismissed.

Any attempt to politicise the issue can only be counter-productive, while casting shadows over the crux of the matter.

Let the criminals face the full wrath of the law, but let not the innocent be convicted or suffer unjust treatment and character assassination, even before the trial begins.

– Taiwo Balogun is a public commentator. He writes from Lagos. Email: [email protected]

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