- Category: Wikileaks on Nigeria
- Published on Sunday, 20 March 2011 16:43
- Written by Next
- Hits: 2012
Police spectacularly bungled the investigation into the brutal murder of Bola Ige, then the attorney general, from the very beginning, and have, to all appearances, given up trying to apprehend the killers.
After Mr. Ige was killed two days to Christmas in 2001, a special team of investigators was constituted to unravel his murder. It has now emerged that members of the team were grossly incompetent, a situation that ruined the investigation. The team, led by former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Abimbola Ojomo, committed atrocious errors which caused agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who were called in to help with the investigations, to conclude that Mr. Ige's murderers might never be found. According to a United States diplomatic cable made available to NEXT, Howard Jeter, former US ambassador to Nigeria, in a January 18, 2002 dispatch to Washington, less than one month after the murder, said the visiting American investigators found their Nigerian counterparts as ‘under-trained and ill-equipped' and came to the conclusion that the inquiry would not yield results.
"Absent a credible confession or outside assistance, the Nigerian investigation will fail to identify the assassin or his paymaster because of the lack of preserved evidence and the weak investigative skills of the police team," Mr. Jeter stated while agreeing with the American operatives.
According to Mr. Jeter, the American government got involved because "with political and public pressure inexorably mounting, the police desperately sought USG assistance in the investigation of the late minister's murder". The American team began its mission in Nigeria with a meeting with Mrs. Ojomo on January 10, 2002, about two weeks after the murder. At the meeting with the American officials, Mr. Jeter wrote, Mrs. Ojomo "summoned members of her handpicked investigative team to join in discussing the case with the USG visitors".
To the chagrin of the visitors, the ballistics expert on Mrs. Ojomo's team "confided that unspent shotgun shells left at the crime scene were not processed for latent fingerprints and were handled by at least six police officials before being placed in a paper envelope and marked as evidence".
"Similar examples of poor collection and preservation of crime scene evidence," the ambassador said, "were evident, including the removal of the body, the movement of a suitcase that the assailant reportedly opened and searched, and the failure to take fingerprints of the attorney general to compare with unknown fingerprints found at the crime scene." Mrs. Ojomo reportedly conceded that the investigation was sloppy. Mr. Jeter said that during the meeting, the police AIG "candidly expressed disappointment in her team's performance and noted that these deficiencies highlighted the need for advanced training for CID investigators - training that could be provided by the USG, particularly the FBI, in evidence collection and forensic analysis".
The feeling of the American officials after meeting with Mrs. Ojomo and her team was one of disbelief as they "found a group of under-trained and ill-equipped investigators struggling with a complex criminal investigation." Mr. Jeter stated in his cable to Washington that the actions of the investigators showed a complete lack of professionalism and competence in handling the investigations.
How US described the investigations
It was not only lower-rank investigators that were deficient in the basic skills of forensic analysis. Even Mrs. Ojomo was guilty of the same.
"These deficiencies were underscored by an offer from Mrs. Ojomo herself to open the envelope containing the gunmen's unspent shells and give these to the FBI agents for examination in her office (which would have further contaminated the evidence)." The American ambassador, however, noted that the police wanted their investigation to yield a successful prosecution. He urged the US government to extend its assistance to the Nigerian police to aid it in its investigations.
Mr. Ige was killed on December 23, 2001 in his house in Ibadan, Oyo State. Following the death of Sani Abacha, former military dictator, and the decision of the Abdusalam Abubabakar-led military government to hand over to a democratically-elected leadership in 1999, Mr. Ige teamed up with other politicians to form the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Disagreements between members of the party led Mr. Ige and other political associates like Olu Falae, Abraham Adesanya, and Chukwuemeka Ezeife to form the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on the deadline date fixed for party registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Mr. Ige challenged Mr. Falae for the presidential ticket of the AD but lost out in a vote by elders of the party. The governor of old Oyo State (1979-1983) then accepted to be a minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo after the latter's election on the PDP platform in 1999. After a stint in the Ministry for Power, the late politician was moved to the Justice Ministry by Mr. Obasanjo. He was murdered at a time when he was signalling to Mr. Obasanjo that he was quitting the PDP government to concentrate on the building of his party. Mrs. Ojomo gave the American officials the same story that the police had given Nigerians about Mr. Ige's death.
"During the evening of December 23, Ige allowed all members of his police security team to take a dinner break, during which the assailants entered the Ige compound unchallenged," Mrs. Ojomo told the US officials. "The assailants entered the home, found and forced household staff and Ige's grown children and wife into a room, before killing Ige with a single shotgun blast at near point-blank range." The police chief also told the American officials that "police investigators believe the assailants searched a suitcase and some bedroom furniture before fleeing".
‘Ige was not killed by drug barons'
While there were rumours at the time that drug barons could have killed Mr. Ige as he had, as attorney-general, opposed the bail of some drug traffickers, Mrs. Ojomo dismissed that possibility.
"Possible drug- or organized crime-related motives for the murder have been investigated and rejected, claimed the AIG," Mr. Jeter stated.
"She disclosed that she had specifically investigated the possibility that two Nigerian drug traffickers arrested in August (2001) with 60 kilograms of cocaine - against whose bail the AG personally fought in court - could have had a hand in the murder, but came up blank." Mrs. Ojomo confided in the American authorities that Mr. Ige's murder may have been politically motivated.
"Ojomo revealed that ongoing interviews of potential suspects have focused attention on one political associate of Ige's whose story is inconsistent. This is their most promising suspect, she claimed." She also called on the US government to provide all possible assistance to the investigators, particularly with the provision of a polygraph machine to aid in the interrogation of the suspects.
No comment from police
Police spokesperson, Yemi Ajayi, declined to respond to our enquiry on the observations of the American team and the confession by Mrs. Ojomo and her team members. He also would not discuss the status of the nine-year-old investigation. Mr. Ajayi said he would only react after seeing the US cable.
"I cannot say anything now until we see the document," he said.
The police had previously stated that the investigation was ongoing.