Network on Poice Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN Foundation) has obtained a copy of the ’Report of the committee on public petitions (of Nigeria’s House of represenatatives) on the petition by the Civil Society Organisatons (CSOs) in Edo State on the murder of comrade Olaitan Oyerinde and alleged complicity of police in shoddy investigation June, 2013.’While we are still studying the report and other
related documents relating to investigations into the murder of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde and the arrest and unlawful detention of David Ugolor by the police on the claim that he masterminded the murder; and pending the conclusion and release of our main report on this subject matter, we wish to make the following preliminary observations.
1. That the language, tone and slant of the report by the HOR’s Committee on Public Petitions are manifestly biased and display a hardly veiled attempt on the part of the members of the Committee to exonerate the police on the allegation of ‘complicity in shoddy investigation of the murder of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde’. The entire effort of the committee appeared to have been driven by the quest to provide the police a soft and safe landing ground over their widely condemned professional blunder in the handling of the Olaitan murder.
2. That the Committee ignored the very vital issues and grave allegations contained in the petition which prompted the committee’s investigation in the first place. Most of the assertions and conclusions reached by the committee in its report were based on submissions and claims by the self-same police which was the principal accused agency. The committee made no effort to verify the claims by the police. For example, the committee failed to visit locations to interview relevant persons. Whereas, for example, the set of suspects paraded by the police as the suspected murderers of Olaitan were reported to have stated that they were tortured by the police, incuding being shot on the leg, to extract false confessions from them, including implicating David Ugolor in the murder, the committee did not make any effort to visit the suspects, currently in a Benin prison, to interview them. The committee members comfortably sat in their cosy meeting room and arrived at unfounded conclusions based, mainly on claims by the same police who are the accused in the matter.
3. That the Committee did not indicate or demonstrate the basis for its recommendation no. 3 that the police should be mandated ‘to further investigate the involvement of Rev. David Ugolor in this episode (the murder of Olaitan) beyond the confession of a suspect, subject to diligent pursuit of his suit for his arrest and detention’.
4. That NOPRIN welcomes and commends the decision of the whole house- after a dispassionate consideration of the committee’s report- to reject, jettison and delete that baseless and frivolous recommendation which was possibly intended to provide a pretext for the police to re-arrest David Ugolor in order to silence him in reprisal for his continued outspokenness, determination and unceasing demand for police accountability and respect for human rights in the discharge of their duties.
5. That it is very curious that the committee also ignored other salient issues raised by the petitioners. For example, the committee made no comment concerning the issue of police disregard of several court orders on the police to release David Ugolor whom they held in unlawful detention. It is telling of the character of the committee members that this act of lawlessness by the police made no impression on them and they did not see the need to condemn it.
6. That the committee also made no effort to address the issue of conflict in the number and identities of suspects paraded by the police and the SSS respectively over the same case. In particular, the committee failed to substantially address the issue of clear complications and doubts raised by this conflict and which renders the effective prosecution of the suspects and the ultimate attainment of justice for Olaitan almost impossible.
7. That the committee also said nothing about the fate of the two conflicting sets of suspects currently awaiting trial in prison over this same case, including those paraded by the police but who were later reported in the media as saying that they were tortured by the police to sign pre-written statements incriminating themselves and David Ugolor.
8. That the most intriguing- if not ridiculous, of the recommendations was asking the same police who are the principal accused in the allegation of ‘complicity in shoddy investigation’ to reinvestigate the involvement of David Ugoor whom the courts had twice ordered the police to release from indefinite detention – for want of credible evidence to continue to detain or prosecute him for the murder of his friend, Olaitan.
9. That the dubiousness of this entire exercise and the report arising from it becomes more manifest when it is considered that in spite of all the foregoing observations, the committee went ahead to patronisingly recommend the commendation of the police for a job well done. It speaks volumes and points to the possible undercurrents that may have gone on behind the scene in the course of the committee’s ‘assignment’.
10. Therefore, NOPRIN hereby calls on the leadership of the HOR to carry out an integrity audit of the members of its Committee on Public Petitions with a view to determining whether they are still morally fit and suitable to be retained as members of that crucial committee and what its implication may be for the reputation of the entire House.