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•As some of their superiors are connected to the robbers
Glorious Babatunde and Shola Akano, detectives of the Kwara State Police Command, unravelled a car theft network in December 2018. Shortly after, they were dismissed for attempting to expose a cover-up within the Police Force. GABRIEL OGUNJOBI was in Ilorin to dig out the unknown truth behind a case that has lingered for over two years without definitive justice.
On December 5, 2018, Abdulrasak Omowunmi, a medical doctor, was about to drive into his residence in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, when two armed robbers pointed guns at him. It was about 10pm. Abdulrasak had honked his Toyota Camry, hoping to retire straight into bed t the end of a strenuous day. He was expecting a member of his family to open the gate, but right in front of him were two able-bodied men. They would take away his car, laptop, phones, and several other valuables.
“There was no light that night so we could not run after them for long, but the morning after, I headed for the Kwara Police command,” he told FIJ.
Ajayi Okasanmi, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Kwara State Police Command, drafted the Public Complaint Bureau (PCB), which he headed, to the case for investigation.
Instituted in 2017, Kwara State PCB comprises five detective officers sourced from various departments of the Police. They were saddled with the duty of investigating the police activities but two of the quintet — Glorious Babatunde and Shola Akano — were particularly known to be skilled in tracking stolen devices.
After Abdulrasak lodged a complaint with them, the detectives’ search didn’t yield any fruit until October 2019. When it eventually did, Glorious, Shola and Ayobami Oyedare were led by Adeniyi Oyetunde on an operation to Nasarawa state to recover Abdulrasak’s belongings. Abdulrasak himself followed them.
The three police officers apprehended two suspects, John Opagbile and Charles Oluwatuyi, who were in possession of Abdulrasak’s car, and four others. All the cars were recovered with forged documents with which the suspects intended to resell them.
After a few days in detention at Kwara State Command, John confessed that Ajadi Habeeb, a Kwara-based car dealer, was their gang leader.
STRANGE CONDITION OF CAR RELEASE.
FIJ gathered that Ajadi’s name was not new on the crime record at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the State Police Command. He had once been remanded at Mandala Medium Security Prison, Kwara, over a robbery allegation.
A source close to the suspect in fact confirmed to this reporter that Ajadi was still nursing “a gunshot injury from another operation” when he was fingered in the latest criminal case. He treated the gunshot wound in his own house, instead of a hospital, to avoid suspicion.
The 2017 Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshot Act compels any medical facility to treat victims of gunshot wounds, victims of road accidents, victims of life stabs or any other type of stabbing, without first obtaining a Police report. However, in the case of injury sustained from a gunshot, the law provides that medical doctors, paramedics or other health workers must inform the Police after stabilizing such a victim.
Ajadi’s house in Ilorin under lock and keys
While the PCB officers were still investigating Ajadi’s activities, Abdulrasak’s car was released “on bond”. This condition of release meant he could not sell the car and could be required to bring it back at anytime.
Abdulrasak’s car after recovery
“I cannot sell the car. If any issue arises in the course of their investigation, I may be required to bring it back,” he explained to FIJ. “They told me the release was on bond but I was not allowed to have any copy of the signed documents.”
FIJ gathered that the theft case was filed at the Magistrate Court in Ilorin way back 2019 but over two years down the lane, the police are yet to even scratch the surface. Instead, some policemen within the command are plotting to cover up the crimes masterminded by Ajadi.
The police could not arrest Ajadi despite several attempts. On the evening of October 15, 2019, three officers, Shola, Ayobami and Ali Abdulkadri (the latter from the CID) tracked Ajadi down to his location in Ilorin, but he managed to escape. Gunshot-wounded Ajadi drove Ali away in his car and that was the last time he would be seen around.
“After Ali entered his car, it didn’t even take up to 30 seconds that they both sped away,” Shola said, indicting his colleague Ali of sabotage during the mission.
In February 2020, the PRO of the Kwara State Police Command also wrote to all the managers of the five banks connected to Ajadi to ban debit transactions from his accounts and notify the police if he ever showed up at the bank.
When this reporter visited Ajadi’s two houses and farm at different places in Ilorin, the structures were locked, appearing abandoned.
But not far from Ajadi’s farm at Magida town on the outskirts of Ilorin, a police station has been newly established. This reporter later found out that Ali was transferred from CID to become the new Officer-in-Charge (O/C) at Magida Police station. Yet Ajadi was still elusive to the Police.
In February 2020, Shola and Glorious were again assigned the duty to investigate a banking fraud based on the complaint of Afusat Abdullahi.
Afusat had reported that N226,000 was fraudulently withdrawn from her account to Naija-Bet’s. Upon investigation, Samuel Olayinka Awogbemi and his master, Fatai Ridwan Olanrewaju, were arrested from Ilorin and Ibadan respectively.
Ordinarily, a bank fraud falls within the purview of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but the case was never reported to the anti-graft agency.
The two suspects confessed to committing the offence, prompting their lawyer, Olayinka Jimoh, to vow that his clients would refund the stolen money.
Ajayi, the PPRO who was also the O/C of the case, signed Fatai’s release to a nearby bank in order to allow him withdraw and refund the complainant.
A few hours later, Fatai returned with the exact money. Ridwan Abdullahi, son of the complainant, collected the money on behalf of his mother. Of his own volition, Ridwan also compensated Glorious and Shola with N20,000 out of the money recovered.
Subsequently, the PPRO granted the two suspects a two-week bail with sureties while investigations relating to other suspected crimes continued. The suspects never returned after the expiration of their bail period.
Instead, Glorious was invited by ACP Jephthal Sounegimote, the Assistant Commissioner of Police IGP X-Squad, over a fresh allegation of illegal detention, torture and extortion of a suspect.
In early March 2020, Glorious and Shola were detained and booked for trial at the orderly room in ‘A’ Division at Kwara State Police Command for allegedly extorting N1.190 million from Fatai inside the car at the Zenith Bank near the Kwara Police headquarters.
During their 15-day detention, the detained policemen were served two court motions over the theft case they investigated. John and Charles had approached the magistrate court to seek their release from detention.
Glorious countered the first motion on the grounds that their release would “jeopardize the ongoing police investigation in order to arrest other suspects and to recover more stolen vehicles”.
The police lost the case for the second motion and John and Charles were released on bail despite multiple criminal evidence against the latter.
Meanwhile, the real reason Shola and Glorious were in detention was about the allegation of extortion but when both Ridwan and Afusat learnt about it, Jephthal denied them the opportunity to give testimonies based on what they knew.
Expressing shock over the controversy, Ridwan confided in this reporter: “These criminals confessed to us that they committed the offence and begged us not to take them to court.
“My mother also said she was only interested in collecting her money but I was shocked when I later heard that the bastard (referring to Fatai) had lied against the officers. This is just a pure case of incrimination.”
Shola maintained that their persecution was not in line with the allegation brought aginst them: extortion.
“The police also know we didn’t do what we were accused of,” he said. “Some top officers just wanted to get us out of the way because of the Ajadi investigation we were doing. If they had allowed us to go on, we would have exposed a lot of our superiors covering Ajadi.”
Meanwhile, the Police trying their colleagues for alleged extortion would have been able to establish the truth if they obtained CCTV footage from the said bank of withdrawal, but FIJ found out that they never approached the bank.
Emmanuel Adigweme, the branch manager of the said Zenith Bank, told FIJ he was not aware of the case. When asked if the police approached the bank for CCTV footage, he said: “The police know the procedures to take if they need any evidence from the bank. I’m not aware any such request was made”
Both Glorious and Shola were recommended for dismissal after their trial. A police wireless message signed by Adegboyega Oyeleye, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Admin), announced the dismissal of the two officers with some others who had been queried in the past.
By the way, Jephthal was transferred to Port Harcourt immediately the two officers were released from detention.
THE DISMISSAL THAT SHOOK KWARA POLICE.
Egbetokun Adeolu, the former Kwara Commissioner of Police
FIJ obtained several pieces of evidence, including documents, audio recordings and photos, that indicted high-ranking officers at the Kwara State Police Command.
In one of the telephone conversations involving Jephthal and another top officer, the former admitted he had not established the claim against the detained officers as of then but was aggrieved by one of the officers’ arrogance.
“I don’t have anything against both of them,” Jephthal had said. “You will see that I didn’t say anything about Shola; it’s just Glorious that is proving arrogant.”
A week after Glorious and Shola’s dismissal had been filed, the PPRO sent them a Whatsapp voice note appealing to them to return to the Command to resolve the controversy, but the officers refused to, for fear of rearrest.
Egbetokun Olukayode Adeolu, the then commissioner, was subsequently transferred to Lagos after their issue was escalated to the media.
In what seemed like a punishment, Egbetokun became the Admin officer at the Nigeria Police Hospital at Falomo, Lagos state.
A source within the CID told FIJ that Egbetokun “shed tears when he received the petition by the dismissed officers over what transpired”.
“He regretted making that decision because he later found out the officers were not guilty,” the source said.
“The Police will not want to dismiss just the two officers so that it won’t raise suspicion but their real intention was to punish only Glorious and Shola. The CID was not happy that the commissioner loved to refer many cases to these two because of their skills and zeal.”
This second signal signed on behalf of Egbetokun, the former commissioner, states that only Shola and Glorious were dismissed. Others initially dismissed were pardoned
FIJ confirmed that other officers listed for dismissal alongside Glorious and Shola were all pardoned and are currently in active service.
A DAY AT THE KWARA STATE POLICE COMMAND
On February 12, 2021, this reporter approached the Kwara State Police Command to enquire about the controversial car theft case but the interview with Ajayi Okasanmi, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Kwara State Command, ended with nothing substantial.
The PPRO didn’t say anything new than to answer that “the case is in court but if you wish to know more, you can go to the CID in charge of the case”.
A visit to the CID further established a crime cover-up as suspected. First, all the officers there made a journalist’s presence appear like one in the lion’s den.
As is the custom in the department, the reporter was asked to drop his mobile phone at the entrance. He was then led to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police Criminal Investigation Department (DCCID).
Ambrose Onah, the DCCID, admitted that he knew nothing about the case, as he was just assuming office that week. He asked Charles Nwokolo, the O/C of Anti-Car Theft Unit, to check the file.
Charles, as it was observed, became rather apprehensive when he learnt this reporter was initially referred by the PPRO.
“You mean the PPRO asked you to come here?” he probed, before inviting another officer to a corner for a short chat.
“How will the PPRO say he doesn’t know much about this case?” Charles was overheard discussing with his colleague.
“This was the case those ‘boys’ handled back then. We were supposed to handle it but they hijacked it from us.”
By “boys”, Charles was referring to Glorious and Shola.
Charles then led the reporter back to the PPRO’s office, but he and the PPRO first proceeded into a closed-door meeting that lasted 10 minutes, leaving the reporter at the reception.
Charles would later return to tell the reporter that there was no more information outside what the PPRO had initially stated.
MERE COINCIDENCE OR POLICE TRAILING REPORTER?
Less than 10 kilometres away from the Kwara State police command is the branch of Zenith Bank where the “boys” were accused of forcefully collecting money from a crime suspect.
Zenith Bank where Fatai claimed to have been extorted by Police
If the police needed evidence to assert the case of extortion against two of their officers, Glorious and Shola, the bank was the place to check but no attempt to do so was made.
After this reporter spent 15 minutes with the bank manager who said no one came to ask for their CCTV footage, this reporter jumped on a motorcycle to another destination.
Suddenly, he found, deside him, Charles in a black Camry car driving in the same direction. The encounter could have been taken for a coincidence if this reporter had not received a call two hours later from the same Police Command.
It was the Kwara Command DCCID calling, with the PPRO beside the caller.
He said: “Hello! Is this the journalist that came to the Command today?”
“Wait to speak to the PPRO.”
The PPRO then went on to re-establish that the car theft case had been charged to court.
Ambrose got the phone back and was quoted saying: “The PPRO said he had told you the case was in court. Wit the way you are going bout things, it looks like there is more you want to know.”
When these dismissed officers returned to the Command to submit their kits, they claimed that Inspector Akinyemi Francis refused to collect them.
Ben Okezie, a security expert, established that it is unlawful for any dismissed officer to be in possession of police properties.
“It is termed impersonation and punishable under the law,” he said.
“If a police is accused of circumventing his duty, he will be booked for trial and recommendations for appropriate punishments will be made.
“No police officer, either retired or dismissed, is allowed to have police uniforms when he/she is not in active service.”
Glorious Babatunde’s police uniform and ID card in his possession after dismissal
The two officers have also approached the Kwara State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating cases of police brutality and rights abuse to seek justice.
They are confident that their dismissal was nothing short of conspiracy.
“We may never be able to return to Kwara State Command again but we want justice,” they said.
“Let the police revisit our investigation on Ajadi and we’ll see whether or not the police will be prosecuted. We are not guilty of any allegation and posterity will judge us right.”
His passion to restore sanity to the Force, Shola said, is still as strong as when he took the police oath 14 years ago. It is not different for Glorious too.
The investigative panel has submitted its recommendations over the 25 cases treated to AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the Kwara state governor.
When asked about the panel’s recommendation over these dismissed officers, Nafisat Musa Buge, a member of the panel, said she would get back to this reporter.
As of the time of going to press, she hadn’t.
•Culled from Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ)