By Kayode Adeoti
It is exactly 161 calendar days today that Offa community in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara State witnessed one of the deadliest armed robbery attacks ever recorded in the history of Nigeria.
Relatives and families of those who lost their lives in the incident have been making persistent calls for justice. This medium gathered that some groups in Offa held a peaceful protest over this development recently urging their traditional leader, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II and the state Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed to see to the prosecution of the suspects in order to bring to book those who perpetrated the dastard act.
However, in his efforts to address the issue, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris deployed Intelligent Response Team (IRT) led by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari to the community and Kwara State at large.
On this backdrop, the team succeeded in arresting ring leaders of the gang. The Oro town in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state was the abode of major leaders of the bandit as no fewer than four (4) suspects were arrested in the community. Those nabbed in the ancient town include; Ayo Akinibosun popularly called AY, Kunle Ogunleye also known as ‘Arrow’, Azeez salaudeen and Niyi Ogundiran.
The prevailing rhetoric questions on the lips of many in the society, especially legal practitioners is, when will the suspects arrested in connection with the crime be charged to court? According to the Nigeria constitution, suspect can only be detailed for the period of 24 to 48 hours in police detention, but for some exceptional cases, the law allows the police to approach court for extension of time, just to justify reason for the continued detention.
“Section 48 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides for bringing an arrested person before a court of law within 48 hours. Section 35(1) (d) of the Bill of Rights states that an accused have the right to be brought before court as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than 48 hours after the arrest; or the end of the first court day after expiry of the 48 hours, if the 48 hours expire outside ordinary court hours or on a day which is not an ordinary court day.
“The 48 hour period applies only to ordinary court hours and days and as such excludes weekends and public holidays from the calculation,” the Constitution revealed.
Another question begging for answer is why the suspects were taken away from the state where the crime was committed and where they will eventually face trials.
But this medium learnt last weekend that the case file has been sent to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of the state, Barr. Kamaldeen Ajibade, SAN from Abuja.
A source in the Ministry of Justice who spoke with Pilot Law unanimously stated that efforts are ongoing to ensure that the suspects are returned to Kwara State for prosecution saying, the Director of Public Prosecution has been saddled to lead prosecution team.
He said, “The file is on the Attorney-General’s table as we speak, he is working on it, and I am sure, very shortly, the matter will be taken to court. It is the matter of court not the police any longer.”
Efforts to get the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Moshood Jimoh did not yield positive result as he did not pick several calls made to his MTN line and the text massages to the same line were not acknowledged as at the time this paper went to bed.
In the same vein, this medium could not get the side of the state Attorney-General on the issue as the reporter who went to his office on two different occasions was denied access on the basis that the SAN was busy.
The Kwara State Command Spokesperson, Ajayi Okasanmi who was contacted over the issue confirmed that their Command have nothing to do with the suspects any longer.
“The case is no longer under our command, it has been taken to Abuja, it is now the issue with the Court in Abuja and the Police. And if it will be transferred to Kwara, I don’t know. I am very sure the Commissioner (Fafowora Olaniyi) doesn’t have any knowledge of the case too, so he will have no comment on it,” Okasanmi said.
Meanwhile, Barr. Muhammed Abeni SAN who reacted to the issue stressed that the suspects ought to have been charged to court for prosecution.
He added that the legal representatives of the suspects ought to have approached court for their trials rather than leaving them under the whims and caprices of the police.
“Ideally, their lawyers should have compelled the police to do the right thing over their arrest, maybe they don’t have legal representatives, it is unjust to leave them under the whims and caprices of the police. Going by the nature of the offence they committed, it is not ordinarily bailable since it is a robbery matter except there is no strong allegations against them. Though, I don’t know if police has sought permission for their continued detention in court,” he stressed.
Barr. Peter Olorunisola SAN who also lend voice on this issue maintained that he cannot fault the police for the continued detention of the suspects since he did not know under which law the police are operating.
“I don’t have the details of the law that justified their continued detention in police custody, they could be right for their action, but all what we know is that when the time is ripe, they will be brought to court for prosecution.
Recalled that on the 5th of April of 2019, the armed bandits took the town by the jugular and brought it down to its knees. The men of the underworld on this fateful day operated in a commando style with sophisticated weapons attacked and robbed seven banks simultaneously and unhindered.
Eco Bank, First Bank, Zenith Bank, GTBank, Union Bank, Stockcorps Micro Finance Bank and Ibolo Micro Finance Bank were financial institutions robbed in an operation that began at about 5pm on 5th April and lasted for more than an hour. No fewer than 33 persons including 9 police officers were killed in the incident.
The robbers did not only steal, they killed and destroyed. They shot sporadically at everything in sight. By the time the dust raised by the incident had settled, scores of bodies littered the streets of Offa. The robbers left in their trail sorrow, tears and blood.