Monday, May 26, 2008

Osun Blast: Time for Independent Probe

Who threw the bomb that shattered part of the ultra-modern government secretariat in Osogbo on exactly June 14, last year? This is one question which ordinarily only the police ought to resolve. Unfortunately, the matter has now moved from the platform of ordinary criminal investigation into the realm of political criminalisation with the leading opposition party in the state, the Action Congress (AC) accusing the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of using the exercise to intimidate and persecute its members in collusion with the police.It all began when the press secretary to Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Kayode Oladeji alleged in a government statement that the prime suspect in the June bomb blast has implicated the AC governorship candidate, Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola and some other chieftains of the party.Oladeji had said the suspect, Richard Abayomi Adesanmi in a sworn affidavit specifically linked Aregbesola and some of his party stalwarts with the incident. He claimed the suspect had been invited to Lagos by one Taye (who died at the scene of the blast and one Olasogba (his brother) now at large. And that upon arriving Lagos they were invited to a meeting in Aregbesola's house, though the meeting could no longer hold, as they were advised to go back to the hotel. Adesanmi was also alleged to have claimed that the diary which contained clues of all that transpired in Lagos was still in the car as at the time of the bomb blast. According to the governor's spokesman: "The suspect hinted further that he was told that the deal was to deliver some things with a big AC man in the government secretariat in Osogbo and that the big man will lead us to deliver the things at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office near the government secretariat and that it will help the AC in the election petition that they are doing against Oyinlola."The AC has however come out with a counter allegation of its own. The party claimed that the "so-called suspect" had earlier been in Ilesa prison on the order of Osogbo Magistrate court and that it was from there that he was first moved to Special Anti-Robbery Squad, before he finally ended up at Governor's Lodge where he was coached and cajoled into recanting the earlier statement.Aregbesola in his own response added that it was a ploy to distract him from pursuing his petition before the tribunal to the conclusion.Stunned that the accused who did not link him during the initial police investigation could now turn round to implicate him, the AC candidate said: "We have to understand who stands to benefit or lose from the exclusion of evidence at the tribunal. The AC had over 30 people at INEC building at the time of the explosion, so how can we sponsor the destruction of the evidence that will help us in our case."Since the government made the allegation, it has been a rash of arrests of several AC chieftains in the state including Aregbesola's lawyer, one Sunday Olaoye said to be a cousin of AC deputy governorship candidate and the state Chief Magistrate, Mr. Ayo Oyebiyi, while about 20 others said to be AC members have also been declared wanted. The situation is such that most members of the opposition party have been driven underground at a time when they are challenging the candidacy of the governor and other elected officials at the tribunal.Much as we call for a thorough investigation and the need to bring the culprits of the dastardly act to book, we wish to call for caution here. We are not persuaded that the government of Osun State is going about it the right way. First, the government ought to have stayed off the matter and allow the police to do its job. A situation where the government is the one now issuing statements on behalf of the police is not only dishonest but puts a question mark on the whole exercise, moreso at a time the government has come to lay a blame on the opposition it is in court with over its legitimacy.Oyinlola's government ought to know better that its active involvement in investigation and prosecution may not be politically expedient. For now the government has boxed itself into a corner over the whole saga. And we must seriously blame the police for this. It appears that the police have now allowed the state government officials to take over its responsibility at a wrong time.So far the whole report of investigation appears not credible and Nigerians are not in anyway convinced. The best thing to do to salvage the exercise is to allow an independent probe to be set up by the Inspector General of Police with credible members of the security, legal and judiciary institutions involved. This will be more convincing to the public. In the meantime, we call for immediate stop of harassment and persecution of all members of the opposition until the end of election petition exercise.

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