Nigeria’s inspector-general of police Ibrahim Idris is awaiting a statement being written by Senate president Dr Bukola Saraki in relation to the confessions of armed bandits who were arrested after they attacked six banks and a police station at Offa, Kwara State, leading to the deaths of 33 people including nine policemen and some pregnant women on April 5. The hoodlums had carted away yet-to-be-disclosed amount of money.
The police invited the Senate president for interrogation, but after a meeting of top government officials at the presidency on Monday, the IGP has asked him to put his statement in writing within 48 hours, an order Saraki was happy to obey.
Some of the robbers, most of whom are from Offa and other towns in Kwara State, were later caught, at least two of them with the aid of pictures from CCTV cameras.
The gang leaders were said to have claimed they were political thugs of Saraki, who was governor of the state between 2003 and 2011, and his successor current Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed. One of the cars used in the Offa robbery was a Lexus jeep labelled ‘SARAKI’ on its number plate – it was allegedly a car given by the Kwara State government to the men for “Youth empowerment”, but they went for robbery with it.
Governor Ahmed’s aides were said to have later changed the number plate after taking the vehicle to Government House, Ilorin. One of them, Mr Alabi Olalekan, personal assistant (political) to the governor, allegedly knew the police was looking for the Lexus jeep as an exhibit used in the Offa robbery and directed one Adeola Omiyale to relocate the jeep to Government House. Olalekan has been in detention, and a revolver pistol and pump-action gun were allegedly recovered from his farm; he was said to have directed his brother to hide them there after his arrest by the police.
Political motives are being read into the questioning of Saraki and (likely later) Governor Ahmed (after he ceases enjoying immunity from prosecution as governor) because it is well known that almost all top politicians make use of thugs who are almost always hardened criminals. The “big men” don’t encourage them to rob and kill, but they do, especially after cessation of political activities. Why, many ask, have other politicians not been queried after their thugs-turned-robbers were caught with sophisticated weapons?
Likely, Saraki is being hounded at this time to keep him away from the APC national convention slated for June 23. Eventually, he may have no case to answer: at least, the robbers have not said he sent them to rob and kill, and they have no evidence to prove that Saraki or Ahmed armed them.
The trial may, however, yield good fruit. Other Nigerian politicians may become forced to learn from the implications of the Offa bandits’ confessions and shun the use of thugs during electioneering.
The APC-led federal government is often accused of vindictiveness and selectiveness against political enemies. Saraki has engaged in a political battle with anti-corruption agency EFCC for years.