One of the suspects in the April 5, 2018 bank robberies in Offa, Kwara State, Ayoade Akinnibosun, yesterday told a Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin how the police coerced him to implicate Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Akinnibosun, who is the first accused person, alongside two other suspects – Ibikunle Ogunleye (2nd accused person) and Adeola Abraham (3rd accused person) are among the five suspects standing trial before Justice Halimat Salman in connection with the Offa robberies, during which six banks were robbed and millions of naira stolen. The two other accused persons are Salaudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd accused persons also told the court yesterday that the principal suspect, Michael Adikwu, was shot dead by one Inspector Vincent attached to the police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) contrary to police claim that he slumped in the custody and was rushed to the hospital where he died.
The IRT is headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari.
Akinnibosun, Ogunleye and Abraham (1st, 2nd and 3rd accused respectively), who were examined and cross-examined by their counsel, Mathias Emeribe, and the prosecution counsel, Razaq Gold, during trial within trial yesterday, said they were tortured and threatened by the police to make confessional statements. The prosecution witness Inspector Hitila Hassan had at Thursday’s proceedings told the court that the suspects voluntarily gave their statements under his supervision.
Lead prosecuting counsel, Prof Wahab Egbewole (SAN) had sought to tender the statements as exhibit but the move was objected by the defence counsel, Emeribe.
Emeribe contended that the statements were not voluntarily taken, and as such fell short of the provisions of the Evidence Act, particularly sections 28 and 29.
At yesterday’s proceedings, Akinnibosun said: “Abba Kyari told me to mention the name of Senate President Bukola Saraki that he gave me the guns for the operations. But I declined to do that contending that my life is at stake.
“He promised that they would reward me handsomely and set me free if I can indict Senator Saraki.
“When I disagreed, they called some policemen to take me back to the cell. During this time my hands were tied to my legs in the back and the police were saying ‘their children are in America and Europe you are allowing yourselves to be used as political thugs.’
Akinnibosun stated that he was the leader of Kwara South Liberation Movement mobilising young jobless graduates for Dr. Rafiu Ibrahim, the Senator representing Kwara South district in the upper legislative chamber. The essence, according to him, was to secure government jobs for the boys.
The 1st-3rd accused persons also at yesterday’s proceedings, gave graphic details of their alleged horrifying experience in the police custody in Abuja.
The suspects also alleged that during one of their encounters at the police IRT ‘theatre room,’ one Inspector Vincent shot dead five Fulani men.
The ‘theatre room’, according to them, is the generator room of the IRT’s office and it also doubles as a place for extra-judicial killings.
The trio added that it was in the same ‘theatre room’ that Inspector Vincent otherwise known as ‘Mr. Torture,’ allegedly shot dead Michael Adikwu for his failure to indict them (accused) in the robbery incidents. According to Ibikunle Ogunleye (2nd accused): “They brought the late Adikwu to implicate us and he said he had not met any of us in his life that is why Mr. Torture shot him to death.”
The presiding judge, Justice Salman has adjourned the case to March 25 for continuation of trial within trial.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was in June last year invited by the police in Abuja for questioning over his alleged involvement in the Offa bank robberies of April 5, 2018.
Specifically, he was directed to report to the Force Intelligence Response Team Office at Guzape, Abuja to answer to the allegations reportedly levelled against him by five alleged gang leaders involved in the robberies. The then Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood told journalists that “the gang leaders namely, Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salawudeen Azeez, Niyi Ogundiran and some of the other 17 suspects arrested for direct involvement and active participation in the Offa bank robberies admitted, confessed and volunteered statements that they were political thugs of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.”
Moshood narrated that investigations indicated that the Lexus SUV with the sticker, ‘SARAKI’ ‘Kwara, State of Harmony,’ used during the bank robberies was hidden on the premises of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Ilorin, Kwara State, while the sticker was replaced with number plate, Kwara, KMA 143 RM. He stated that the sticker was recovered from one Adeola Omiyale who drove the vehicle to the Government House, Ilorin after the robberies on instructions of Olalekan, the Personal Assistant to the Kwara State Governor “who was privy to information that the police are looking for the Lexus SUV as an exhibit.”
But Saraki dismissed the allegation as baseless, saying he had no link with any band of criminals.
Saraki attributed the allegations to plot by the police to embarrass him following his insistence that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris (as he then was) should appear before the Senate to explain reasons for the rampant killings and violence across the country. The Senate President, in a statement then by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged the entire public to disregard this claim as a baseless allegation and another ploy by the Police to implicate him by all means.
“Let it be known that there is no way I could have been associated with armed robbery against my people. When the Offa robbery incident happened, I was the first top public official to pay a visit to the place and right there in the palace of the traditional ruler, I put a call through to this same Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the IG, requesting him to make certain specific security arrangements as demanded by the people.
“Members of the public will remember that on May 16, 2018, I alerted the Senate to the information passed on to me by my state governor, Dr. Abdulfatai Ahmed, over a plot by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to frame me by getting some suspected cultists arrested in Ilorin to implicate me. It is believed that the timely leakage of the plot in that case aborted the use of the suspected cultists to implicate me. Now, it is the Offa bank robbery suspects that are about to be used. “This plot is concocted to embarrass me and, in the mind of the IG, it is his own response after his refusal to honour the invitation by the National Assembly, headed by me, for him to come and offer explanations on the rampant killings and violence across the country.
“Like the earlier one, this frame-up will also fail as I hereby state categorically that I have no link with any band of criminals.
“As a person who has utmost respect for the rule of law and all constitutional institutions, when the invitation from the Police is formally extended to me, I will be ready to honour it without any delay.
“It is however sad that this abuse of the criminal investigation process aimed at intimidating and over-overawing the legislature, thereby obstructing it from doing its work, is a big threat to our democracy.”
Similarly, Governor Ahmed refuted police allegations of sponsoring, funding, arming or otherwise supporting political thugs. Ahmed in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, described the allegations as false.
He also rejected his alleged indictment by the Nigeria Police or the armed robbery suspects in their custody.
Ahmed said that while the state government had empowered several youth groups under its Small and Medium Enterprises scheme neither he nor the state government could be held liable for how beneficiaries utilise the facility.