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COVER STORIES

Unresolved Murder Cases And Nigeria’s Justice System

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BY OMONU YAX-NELSON

The measure of respect any nation enjoys in the comity of nations is proportionate to its ability to execute the primary purpose of government, which is that of protecting the inherent human rights to life, liberty and property, internal cohesion, equitable and fair dispensation of justice, and above all, the strict adherence to the rule of law. OMONU YAX-NELSON writes that over time, Nigeria has shown little strength in defending its weak against the strong, going by several unresolved murder cases and widespread violence.

The primary purpose of government, anywhere, is the protection of lives and properties. Any society where government fails in this is not any better than the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’.
The marked difference between the modern state system and the Hobbesian state of nature is that, while justice in the Hobbesian state of nature lies at human fist and the weak lives perpetually at the mercy of the strong, law regulates human conducts in a society. In this case, government is to defend the citizens against impunity of the Hobbesian system.
One of the known ingredients of modern civilization is that, all men, irrespective of social class, position and wealth, are equal before the law; and the law is what regulates the affairs of the state. It also holds that, the arm of the law is long and strong enough to catch up with culprits, no matter how powerful or connected.
In Nigeria, reverse seems to be the order, as the state (government), lacks the capacity or will to defend its citizens. The myriad of premeditated killings and alleged state-sponsored murder cases, be it political, sectarian, ethnic or herdsmen-farmers clashes that have remained unresolved is sour point.
More than anything else, insecurity of lives and property has contributed in no small measure in lowering Nigeria’s prestige in the comity of nations. This is compounded by the inability of the system to dispense justice without fear or favour. This situation has left the vulnerable in Nigeria at the mercy of the high and mighty.
For instance, political and opinion leaders have continued to give conflicting reasons why the carnage in Benue State and Southern Kaduna has remained unabated. Thousands of women in these troubled zones and elsewhere in the country have become widows, children orphaned in endless killings that appear to have defiled every known antidotes.
Before this time, we saw unmitigated political assassinations, prominent among which is the murder of a member of PDP board of trustees and former boss of Nigeria Airways, Chief Andrew Agom, who was killed on March 4, 2004. He was on the entourage of the former Benue State governor, Senator George Akume, when the ugly incident happened.
Perhaps, the most pathetic case of Nigeria’s inability to defend its people was the murder of the man popularly referred to as ‘Cicero’. Chief Bola Ige was a former governor of Oyo State and was at the time of his death minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation in the Obasanjo government of national unity. He was murdered under mysterious circumstances on December 23, 2001, at his residence in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Though the law enforcement agencies arrested Senator Iyiola Omisore as the mastermind of the act, the case was to go the way of previous cases. His family has since given up on the case resigning itself to fate.
The way these gruesome murder cases are treated by the authorities  suggests that little importance is attached to human life. In other climes, murder cases are treated with the seriousness it deserves because human life is sacred. No matter how long murder cases take the perpetrators are fished out and punishment meted accordingly to serve as deterrent and also ease the pains of victims’ families. This engenders confidence of citizens in the ability of their government to defend them.
In July of 2006, the towering Lagos political figure and PDP governorship aspirant, Funso Williams was left in the pool of his own blood when death merchants visited his Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos home.
In what seems to be an endless cycle of political assassinations, on Monday, January 25, 2010, assassins shot and killed Otunba Dipo Dina, the 2007 Action Congress governorship candidate in Ogun State, in front of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.
The dependents of these murdered Nigerians remain in perpetual grief because the system has not been able to account for how these illustrious Nigerians were brought down in their prime, sometimes in broad day light.
For instance, despite the sophisticated technology available to investigators and crime fighters today, crime prevention and detection have remained an uphill task to Nigeria’s security agencies.
Think of the murder of the chairman, ThisDay Editorial Board, Mr Godwin Agboroko. What about Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, who was Killed on February 6, 2004. He was until then PDP’s national vice chairman (South South). His killers were never unmasked, though the police, in an attempt to sway opinions paraded some armed robbers as the suspects.
Crime experts have severally inferred that most of the killings, especially, politically masterminded ones, suffer political interferences and as such security agencies never really get any headway in their investigation. In this wise, many high profile people were fingered in connection with the murder of Harry Marshall, the former national vice chairman of the All
Nigeria People’s Party who was assassinated in Abuja in 2003 during the presidential elections, the case never progressed beyond that.
In the media world, the murder of the founding editor of Newswatch Magazine, Dele Giwa, on October 19, 1986, is known to many. His assassination through a parcel bomb, analysts say, gave impetus to the rise of high profile murder cases in the country.
Giwa was until his death one of the most celebrated journalists and the ruling military junta of the time saw him as audacious. Though, his death remains a scare on the collective conscience of Nigerians, the will to carry out thorough investigation that will lead to the prosecution of the masterminds is still not there.
Another journalist whose death has remained a bleeding point for the pen profession is James Bagauda Kalto. He was until his abduction and murder on November 12, 1995, a writer with Tell and Tempo. He was believed to be one of the many victims of Gen Sani Abacha’s brutal rule. His death is still a mirage and his killers remain faceless. For how long will the authorities allow this and several other cases to remain unresolved?

 



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