The Nigeria Police on Thursday paraded 14 suspects allegedly involved in the invasion of the Abuja residence of Supreme Court Justice, Mrs. Mary Odili.
THISDAY disowned one of the suspects, Mr. Stanley Nkwazema, who claimed to be a staff and contributing editor of the newspaper.
Similarly, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, distanced himself from the leader of the group that conducted the raid, Lawrence Ajodo, who claimed to be a consultant to the AGF.
A group that claimed to be personnel of some security agencies, including the police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Department of State Services (DSS), among others, had invaded the home of the Odilis on October 29. The invasion drew wide condemnation from individuals and organisation, including the judiciary, Senate, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, and other socio-cultural groups and civil society organisations.
EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, had denied involvement of the agency in the raid, while the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Usman Baba, in ordering investigation into the incident also denied involvement of the police in the matter.
But parading the suspects at the Force CID in Abuja, Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police, said the investigation was predicated on a petition submitted by Malami directing the Inspector General of Police to conduct a robust investigation into the matter. Mba said 14 suspects were arrested while seven were at large, even as he said detectives were working round the clock to apprehend others still at large.
He said the leader of the syndicate, Ajodo, who claimed to be a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), was an impostor.
“He is an impostor, not one of us or other law enforcement agencies in the country,” he stated.
Mba said the syndicate obtained a search warrant based on false representation. He said the identity card found on him containing the signature of the AGF was forged.
Mba said the invasion was a well-conceived one with actors drawn from different professional backgrounds, notably, law, journalism, and rogue law enforcement. He said one of the suspects, Yusuf Adamu of the Bauchi State Liason Office, had claimed that there was a large deposit of hard currency in the home of the Odilis.
Mba said a prayer warrior, Aliyu Umar Ibrahim, who was contacted by an alleged Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) staff had gone to Odili’s house to get soil sample of the place which confirmed the existence of the hard currency in the residence. He said the syndicate contacted a staff of EFCC, Austin, who was at large, and two lawyers, Barristers Igwe and Lawrence, and a journalist, Nkwazema.
Nkwazema claimed he was investigating an exclusive story. But Mba said the police doubted him because he did not report the story before it broke and long after it broke, until police invited him.
Mba said all the suspects attended all the meetings before the invasion and were all there on the night of the invasion. He said the security men at Odili’s residence should be commended for observing that the search warrant contained No 7 instead of No 9.
According to Mba, “This action saved the nation what would have been an embarrassment. The investigation has been swift, intelligence-led and comprehensive. Any of the suspects currently at large will be arrested.
“We have contacted other security agencies, whose personnel are among those at large.”
The police spokesman said no staff of the Ministry of Justice was involved in the operation.
But a man, who claimed to be the whistle-blower, an Islamic prayer warrior and swore to an affidavit that there was looted money in the house, said the information he was given was authentic. He alleged that he was called by the EFCC, after which they all assembled at the Ministry of Justice, where they demanded for the affidavit that he submitted, prompting surveillance on the home of Justice Odili.
“I showed him Justice Odili’s house,” Ibrahim said.
Mba declared, “At the end, all would be charged to court based on their level of involvement.”
He said the charges might include conspiracy, impersonation, and forgery.
However, Ajodo, insisted that he was one of the five consultants appointed by the office of the AGF and that he was mandated to recover stolen funds lodged in 18 accounts.
Responding to questions during their parade, Ajodo said he was neither a personnel of the police nor worked for the AGF, but maintained his position that he was one of the consultants mandated to recover 18 accounts. He said the search was not executed on the night of the invasion because the house number on the warrant was No 7 and not No 9 Imo Crescent, the residence of the Justice, which prompted them to call off the search.
“I was given18 accounts to recover. I am a consultant, one of the five engaged in that office (AGF),” Ajodo insisted.
However, the web of denial of involvement by security agencies appears to be punctured by the accounts of the police and the suspects.
For instance, the police said two soldiers, a police ASP, an immigration officer, and an EFCC staff, who were allegedly involved in the raid, were at large. Those who raided Odili’s residence were also said to be about 50.
These raise the question how, suddenly, the paraded suspects are only civilians – lawyer, journalist, native doctor – or fake policemen or suspects, who forged search warrants for the operation.
THISDAY Disowns Stanley Nkwazema
Meanwhile, the management of THISDAY Newspapers, in a disclaimer notice signed by the Managing Editor, Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, stated categorically that Nkwazema was neither a staff nor a Contributing Editor of the organisation.
The notice dated November 11, read, in part, “The attention of the management of THISDAY Newspapers has been drawn to the news making the rounds that Mr. Stanley Nkwazema, one of those suspected to have invaded the home of Justice Mary Odili, claimed to be a staff and Contributing Editor of THISDAY.
“Contrary to his claim, Mr. Nkwazema is neither a staff of THISDAY nor a Contributing Editor. He was a Sports Correspondent and resigned more than 15 years ago.”
Adebiyi explained that occasionally, Nkwazema, like hundreds of other readers of the newspaper, sent for publication articles and analyses and were usually obliged. He added that it was a privilege THISDAY gave to some of its ex-staff.
The notice added, “That does not in any way make him a staff and contributing editor of THISDAY.
“Since his resignation, THISDAY had at no time contracted Mr. Nkwazema to investigate any story, and we know nothing of his alleged investigation of a story leading to the raid of the residence of Hon. Justice Odili.
“The police authorities and the general public should, therefore, note that Mr. Nkwazema, whatever may be his involvement in this matter, was not on any reportorial assignment in any shape or form on behalf of THISDAY.”
Malami Denies Ajodo
In a related development, Malami denied knowing or engaging Ajodo at any time.
Malami, in a statement, described the confession of Ajodo as that of a “drowning man scavenging for a dying partner”.
He added that he could not have stooped so low to engage a quack or fake police officer as consultant.
Malami’s position was contained in a statement by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu.
The statement said, “The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a confession of a suspect during interrogation in the investigation of the recent invasion of the residence of the highly respected Justice of the Supreme Court; Justice Mary Peter Odili.
“With all the competent, high level professionals and capable human resources available at the disposal of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, it only takes the imagination of the evil minds to assume or think that the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will descend so low to engaging a quack or fake police officer to serve as his consultant.
“This is a case of a drowning man scavenging for a dying partner.”
The AGF said he was happy that investigation had commenced to unravel the circumstances and personalities behind the invasion and sponsored campaign of calumny against his person.
He added that it was his desire and hope that the investigation would also disclose those after him, dragging his personality, his name and his exalted office in dirty politics.
Malami, while describing the development as an orchestrated attempt to stir unnecessary controversy and public apprehension, challenged the suspect to present documents of engagements where he worked as a consultant to the AGF, whether in the past or present.
The statement added, “Consultant for what? Which activity or assignment? When was he engaged? What were the terms of reference for the alleged consultancy service? When was he engaged? Where was he engaged? Which work has he executed for the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice? For what duration? And for how much?
“We boldly and unequivocally challenge the fake consultant/police officer to come out with answers or responses to these questions to the general public.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice superintends over and respects the rule of law, and will not do anything to undermine the sanctity of his office and that of the entire judiciary and Justice sector.”
Alex Enumah and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja