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Ige, Dikibo reopened cases, litmus test for new IG

The two murders being revisited are those of Bola Ige and Aminasoari Dikibo,litmus test for IG
An orgy of politically-induced killings has been inexorable in the Fourth Republic. The blood of the victims and their families is crying for justice. As a result, the police struck a chord with Nigerians when they announced that two of such cases brushed aside by the state more than a decade ago would be reopened.  No doubt, the decision could open a new page in the annals of the country’s criminal justice system.

The two murders being revisited are those of Bola Ige and Aminasoari Dikibo, amid several others. They are emblematic of the benumbing heights of impunity in this democratic dispensation that began in 1999. But a report says some key suspects in the Ige murder case have been re-arrested, including one of the major financiers.


Ige, who was the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, was killed on December 23, 2001 at his Ibadan, Oyo State, private residence, when all his security details had curiously disappeared. Dikibo, until his fatal fate on February 6, 2004, was the National Vice-Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party.

While the reopening of the cases has been widely applauded, Nigerians, however, are quick to remind the government of a litany of unresolved politically-inspired killings and a truckload of promises by successive governments to reopen them. The victims are, but not limited to the following: Harry Marshal, Ogbonnaya Uche, Funsho Williams, Dipo Dina, Barnabas Igwe and wife (Abigail), Ayo Daramola, Andrew Agom and Suliat Adedeji.  The Dele Giwa, Alfred Rewane and Kudirat Abiola murders, which had the same hue, however, occurred under the military interregnum. The convolutions associated with these killings created the impression in the minds of many that they had the imprimatur of the state.

Yet, the right to life is universal, sacred, and guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution. As murder cases do not have statutes of limitation, not a few are buoyed by this fact to believe that no matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law will catch up with the criminals behind these gruesome deaths. The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, therefore, should see the re-opening of the Ige and Dikibo files, as a litmus test of his competence for the exalted office.
Evidently, Idris is giving effect to an earlier avowal of President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015, to resurrect all cases of political assassination when state chairmen of the All Progressives Congress visited him in Abuja, shortly after he assumed office.  “At every point, the law must be supreme and everyone must respect the rule of law, if our democracy is to survive. Injustice cannot survive for long; justice will ultimately prevail,” the President said.

In all of this, what has been really missing is the strong political will by Presidents from the Olusegun Obasanjo administration till date to unravel the assassinations. As a matter of fact, this lacuna and the corruption intertwined with it, have inspired more politically-driven carnage. As Nigeria’s chief law officer, Ige’s killing and the obvious official indifference and perhaps cover-up to fishing out the masterminds, despite arrests and confessional statements obtained by the police, were a big national embarrassment and rank irresponsibility of the political authorities.

The nightmare it invoked, compelled the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, to describe the ruling party then as “a nest of killers,” stressing that “the vipers in the nest do not strike only outwards, but inwards.” Indeed, politically-induced murders are noxious effects of the failure of the political elite to imbibe the values of democracy. Attempts to subvert our democracy by subjecting it to the bestial code of “do-or-die” must be checkmated at all costs.

However, the Buhari government’s renewed interest in Ige’s dastardly murder is what his family has been waiting for. Muyiwa, son of the late opposition political figure, shortly after Buhari was elected last year, had seen his tenure as a veritable moment for the family to reopen the quest for justice for their father’s untimely death. He said, “We know the killers, they are still out there walking, but sooner or later, the killers will be found. Once we have a concerned government in power, we will fish out the killers.”

This is a broadly shared optimism. Now, the opportunity no longer seems far-fetched.  But the police will have to bring something refreshingly different in their investigative capacity; a terrain now driven by forensic technology to guarantee success. There are concerns, however, that the evidence collected during the earlier pretentious investigations and trials may have been tampered with.

But experts say that forensic sciences have changed the criminal justice system in such a way that no investigative tool has done. Interpol has since 1998 recommended the use of DNA technology in criminal investigations as “a powerful tool in identifying offenders and in their prosecution.”

In the United States, for instance, Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer in Washington that murdered 48 persons, mostly prostitutes, between 1982 and 83, had DNA evidence collected in 1987 for his trial.  But the technology at the time could not permit the police to directly connect him to the killings. But this changed in 2001 when a new DNA technique emerged: the pieces of evidence were re-examined, and he had no choice but to confess.

The Nigeria police should leverage this technique to make a strong statement that they are still a force to be reckoned with in dealing with crime detection. As part of their capacity building, the police, under the immediate past IG, Solomon Arase, acquired a forensic laboratory to complement the one in Lagos, just as a US-based forensic firm has since June 2010 been providing intensive forensic DNA training for Nigerian scientists – police officers – to enable the country to establish  and operate a law enforcement DNA laboratory.

As William Gladstone, one time British Prime Minister, once said, it is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right; now is the time to bring all this empirical knowledge and hi-tech to bear on our collective search for justice, rule of law and orderly society. Any move by anybody to fudge should incur the full wrath of the law.


 

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