Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to reopen painstaking investigations into the unresolved murder cases of some prominent Nigerians, in the belief that something tangible could still be achieved in that direction regardless of the fact that some of the victims were killed over 20 years ago.
Findings revealed that some of the cases already lined up for reinvestigation include the murder of late Chief Bola Ige, who was gruesomely killed in his Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State home, on December 23, 2001 by yet to be identified persons, and that of Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, who was killed in Delta State on his way from Port Harcourt to Asaba to attend a Peoples Democratic Party meeting. The late Ige had served as Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
For Dikibo, the blood-letting incident occurred on February 6, 2004, and until his death, he was the PDP National Vice Chairman, South-South.
Also known to have been killed in a circumstance that had defied all logical reasoning was Dele Giwa, a leading investigative journalist.
Giwa, a co-founder of Newswatch magazine, died through a letter bomb on October 19, 1986, at his home in Ikeja, Lagos.
Meanwhile, much as the President’s directive to the IGP was seen as a welcome idea in some quarters, there have been diverse opinions on the presidential order.
On the one hand are those who see the development as capable of correcting the wrongs and healing the already infested wounds of the victims’ families. But on the other are those who simply see things from a different perspective.
"The matter becomes more worrisome, considering the fact that the headship of the almost moribund police forensic laboratory is known to have been politicised to favour candidates of choice. Today, the appointment of a non-scientist as the head is the order. And in such an environment, one can hardly get reliable evidence that would be admissible at trial"
Recall that two days after the presidential order, the media reported that, a one-time Deputy Governor of Osun State, who later became a senator of the Federal Republic, Iyiola Omisore, applauded the order, but was curious to add a caveat that the investigation should not be limited to Ige and Dikibo cases alone.
Omisore was one of the accused persons earlier prosecuted for the murder of Ige before he was discharged and acquitted by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Through his media aide, Diran Odeyemi, the former Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the Senate was quoted as saying that the Federal Government should extend its search for the killers to the late Engr Funso Williams, who was a PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos and also Odunayo Olagbaju, who was a lawmaker in Osun State before his untimely death.
The former lawmaker reasoned that such investigations were capable of making “things whole by erasing doubts from the mind of doubting Thomases.”
To Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, a retired Commissioner of Police, who incidentally investigated one of the cases while serving at Alagbon, Lagos, it was a welcome development, which was capable of allowing the dead get justice and rest happily in their graves.
According to him, “the presidential order suggests that the murder cases were inconclusive to the satisfaction of the Presidency and that the Presidency, perhaps, have other evidences to make people culpable; if not in this line of thought, it may simply amount to a waste of time and resources.”
However, regardless of the massive support that the presidential order has garnered, one is worried that President Buhari might have embarked on many battles capable of derailing his focus.
Those who are knowledgeable in the art of good governance but prefer to remain anonymous have argued that the contending issues of Boko Haram, corruption and institutional decay, Niger Delta militancy, kidnapping and the wanton killings by herdsmen across the country are enough problems yet to be addressed.
They have argued that President Buhari should rather face the economy headlong, rather than dissipating energy on almost forgotten cases of murder. They also add that reopening them may throw up some challenges that could confound his administration.
Re-opening some of the high profile murder cases like the ones involving Ayo Daramola, Ige, Williams, Giwa and others would, no doubt, pitch some personalities against the government, since it had been argued that some of the high profile suspects in such matters are today very close to the government.
Fittingly so, there have also been reservations in some quarters that the Nigeria Police would not likely do a thorough job as far as re-investigating the murder cases are concerned.
This is because the police have their own limitations, one of which is inadequate operational facilities like functional forensic laboratories. Of course, we need not be told that serious murder cases can never be successfully investigated without applying the knowledge of forensic science. This is beside the fact the knowledge of forensic investigation of members of the Nigeria Police is still at the pedestrian level.
Recall that almost 20 years ago, the idea of building a DNA laboratory to tackle criminal cases was toyed with. This was followed with the trainings of some high-ranking police officers abroad. But it is disheartening to say that the idea is still in the incubation and none of the officers so trained has made any evidence-based successful prosecution.
The matter becomes more worrisome, considering the fact that the headship of the almost moribund police forensic laboratory is known to have been politicised to favour candidates of choice. Today, the appointment of a nonscientist as the head is the order. And in such an environment, one can hardly get reliable evidence that would be admissible at trial.
If government means well with the recent directive beyond mere rhetoric or playing to the gallery, it is important it makes available structures that will engender conceptual models and computer modelling tools to aid information gathering by upgrading the police forensic laboratory.
And more importantly, the IGP should also be allowed to appoint core professionals, who are grounded in analytical tasks and use of target-centric models. Otherwise, the re-investigation will be another exercise in futility.