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Saraki: Why Police force wants to question Senate President over links to Offa robbery

The Nigeria Police Force issued a stern warning to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday, to report himself to the Intelligence Response Team office at Guzape junction, Asokoro Extension, in Abuja, as soon as possible.

In a statement issued by Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Jimoh Moshood, on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, he warned the Senate President to honour police invitation before the force is compelled to use all the instruments of the law to ensure compliance.

This statement followed an earlier invitation signed by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, inviting Saraki to answer questions on his alleged links to the criminal gang that carried out the Offa robbery attack that led to the death of at least 33 people in April.

In June 2018, the police had linked Saraki to the ringleader of the Offa robbery and even though he was first summoned, he was later asked to send in a written response, which he did.

Questions have continued to spin about the motive behind the senate president’s invitation by the police and some still remain unclear on the nature of his links with the robbery.

So, here’s a quick rundown of Saraki’s links with the robbery:

Nine police officers and at least 24 others lost their lives when a group of around 30 armed robbers attacked Union Bank, Eco Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank, Zenith Bank and Ibolo Micro Finance Bank, as well as the Owode Police Station in Offa, Kwara State, on April 5, 2018.

22 suspects have been arrested and some of them were presented to the press during a media briefing on June 3, 2018.

According to DCP Moshood, the main gang leaders are Ayoade Akinnibosun (aka, AY), Ibikunle Ogunleye (aka Arrow), Adeola Abraham, Salawudeen Azeez, and Niyi Ogundiran, all indigenes of Oro, Irepodun local government area of Kwara.

Saraki’s alleged links to Offa robbery

While many have incorrectly assumed that the police accused the senate president of sending the gang to rob, in his home state where he was governor for eight years, the police have never officially made that assertion.

During the course of investigations, the main gang leader, Akinnibosun, named Saraki and incumbent Kwara governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, as his gang’s political sponsors.

He said, “I am the chairman of Liberation Youths Movement, Kwara South. My involvement with the senate president is we’re his boys; we work for him at Kwara South. We’re the ones that hold Kwara South for him. We’ve been working for him since he was Governor of Kwara.

“We mobilise and do political arrangement there (Kwara South). For example, where we can’t win, we make dabaru (disruptive) arrangement there; we scatter elections if we don’t win.”

Akinnibosun further disclosed that a Lexus jeep GX-300, which was used during the robbery, was a gift from Saraki which he received through Ahmed’s Chief of Staff, Yusuf Abdulwahab, who has also been arrested in connection to the robbery.

“The connections between me and the senate president is that he’s the one that is arranging everything for us. For example, this car (a Lexus jeep GX-300) was given to me by His Excellency (Governor Ahmed) through the Chief of Staff of Kwara state as a gift from leader, Bukola Saraki. I participated in the Offa robbery. I took this Lexus car along to Offa,” he said.

The vehicle was used in the robbery with a sticker plate number inscribed with “SARAKI” and registered to “Kwara, State of Harmony”. Abdulwahab allegedly replaced the vehicle’s number plate with a new one (registration number: Kwara, KMA 143 RM) and registered it in Akinnibosun’s name to cover up its identity.

Governor Ahmed’s personal assistant on politics, Alabi Olalekan, has also been arrested in connection with the robbery as he attempted to hide the vehicle in question. A revolver pistol and pump action gun were also allegedly recovered from his farm.

Akinnibosun told the police, and the media, that two of the guns used in the robbery were supplied to him by Abdulwahab, although he noted that he only supplied it for political thuggery and not the Offa robbery.

Akinnibosun has noted twice in public that his gang’s alleged sponsors, Saraki and Ahmed, knew absolutely nothing about the robbery.

3 bank robbers were on condolence visit to Offa 2 days after killing 33 people there play 37-year-old Ayoade Akinnibosun, aka AY, has been identified as the coordinator of the Offa robbery operation (YouTube/OakTV)

More ‘evidence’ pile up against Saraki

Days after the first parade of the suspects in Abuja, the police paraded the gang leaders again and disclosed that more evidence had been unearthed about Saraki’s links to the criminal gang.

During the June 6 media briefing, DCP Moshood said two more suspects had implicated the senate president as a sponsor of political thuggery.

He disclosed that after the first media parade, Akinnibosun mentioned three other notorious political thugs who worked for Saraki in Kwara Central. The police proceeded to arrest two of the suspects, Kehinde Gobiri (aka, Captain) and Oba Shuaib Olododo (aka, Jawando), who allegedly both admitted to committing various crimes in Kwara Central senatorial district under the guise of political thuggery for the senate president. The third suspect, Alhaji Dona, remains at large.

The police further alleged that, since the first briefing, all five gang leaders had confessed to having a direct connection to Saraki and were at his daughter’s recent wedding ceremony. He disclosed that they confessed to have been sponsored with firearms, money and operational vehicles by Saraki and Governor Ahmed.

DCP Moshood also claimed that Akinnibosun, Ogunleye and Abraham followed the senate president to the Olofa of Offa’s palace when he paid a condolence visit to the town after the bank robbery.

He concluded that, due to the new pieces of evidence, Saraki was still under investigation in connection to the Offa bank robbery and that the ongoing investigation would be driven to a logical conclusion.

ALSO READ: Offa Robbery: Read full Police statement on new ‘evidence’ against Saraki

In the IGP’s letter of invitation to Saraki, dated July 23, 2018, the police alleged that the last financial handout Akinnibosun got directly from the senate president was the sum of N500,000. He also reiterated that three gang leaders were in Saraki’s convoy on his condolence visit to Offa.

From all indications of how events have unfolded, it appears the police want to establish a connection between Saraki and the gang, not necessarily to nail him for the Offa robbery, but more likely to hit him with an illegal arms trafficking charge, like the type that Senator Dino Melaye is currently standing trial.

Holes in Police’s story

Even though the police force has relentlessly dismissed criticisms that its insistence on Saraki’s links to the group is not politically-motivated, there are certain inconsistencies in its catalogue of evidence against the senate president.

For instance, during the second media briefing with the alleged gang leaders, DCP Moshood said all five had confessed to having a direct connection to Saraki and were at his daughter’s recent wedding ceremony.

However, during the first media briefing, the only person who spoke on any sort of connection to Saraki was Akinnibosun.

When Ogunleye was asked about any links between Saraki (and Ahmed) and the gang, he could not answer and clumsily referred to Akinnibosun’s previous statement.

Azeez, who killed two people during the robbery attack, appeared even more clueless during the media briefing as he confessed that he was an ordinary mechanic who was recruited for the operation only days before the devastating attack.

Even though DCP Moshood asserted that all gang leaders had admitted at the first media briefing that they worked as political thugs for Saraki who sponsored them with firearms, money and operational vehicles, it was only Akinnibosun that made such a confession.

Furthermore, the police force has consistently claimed that three of the gang leaders were on Saraki’s convoy when he paid a condolence visit to the palace of the Olofa of Offa, HRM Oba Muftau Gbadamosi Esuwoye II, just two days after the tragic loss of lives.

However, in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, Akinnibosun disclosed that they were not on Saraki’s convoy and didn’t personally meet him at the palace.

He said, “I was at home when a friend of mine called me. His name is Shamsudeen Bada; he is a boy to Bukola Saraki too. We have a platform, but I did not quickly see the message on the platform. So, he now called me and said the Senate President would be going to Offa. I now called Aro and Adex and asked them where they were; they said they were at the saw mill, that we should meet at home. We now moved from our house to Offa. On getting there, it was just 15 minutes the senate president had been inside already. So, we didn’t stay much and he left.”

Also, when Akinnibosun was asked about how he got possession of the sticker plate number inscribed with “SARAKI”, he said, “The sticker is being (sic) given to us. When we go for a political meeting, they use (sic) to share it.”

Saraki vs IGP

In his letter of invitation, the IGP declared that the senate president needed to make some clarifications on his written response to the allegations and directed him to meet with the Intelligence Response Team at 8am on Tuesday, an appointment Saraki failed to honour.

In light of the fractious relationship the two share, many people have alleged that the IGP is abusing his power to politically persecute the senate president.

This took on even more significance as police officers were alleged to have swarmed Saraki’s Abuja residence at Lake Chad Crescent in Maitama on Tuesday, around an hour before he was scheduled to meet with authorities.

This led to more public outcry as security operatives also besieged the residence of Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, leading to rumours that it was a ploy by the federal government to remove the two from office or stop them from presiding over the day’s session that was expected to witness the defection of a dozen lawmakers from the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC).

It’s unclear how the Senate President made it out of his residence, but he appeared at the National Assembly and sanctioned the decision of 14 senators to dump the APC for opposition parties.

Saraki snubbed the police invitation for the rest of the day, meeting with American diplomat, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, instead.

The Nigeria Police Force has denied any knowledge of laying siege to his residence and have advised him to honour the invitation to be questioned about his alleged links to the Offa criminal gang.

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