Amid raging controversies over police investigations into the murder of the Founding Editor of NEWSWATCH Magazine, Dele Giwa, a retired Commissioner of Police in Lagos State has described as untrue recent statements credited to a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Chris Omeben that some top directors of NEWSWATCH prevented him from interrogating the then London Correspondent of the magazine, Mr Kayode Soyinka whom he believed had some questions to answer over the murder.
Omeben had last week in an interview accused two Directors of NEWSWATCH, Messrs Ray Ekpu and Yakubu Muhammed of shielding Soyinka from being quizzed and investigated by the police as he was the only person with Giwa when the bomb that killed him exploded. Both men later denied the claims while accusing Omeben of fabricating falsehood.
Speaking with SATURDAY SUN’s TUNDE THOMAS over the matter, Tsav who was then an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of investigations at the time of the incident described Omeben as a liar and a confused old man.
According to Tsav, Omeben’s recent declaration on Dele Giwa’s murder was a mere fallacy. He urged right thinking Nigerians not to take Omeben serious.
“I’m sorry to say this because Omeben happened to be my senior in the Force before both of us retired. But Omeben should be ashamed of himself for purveying falsehood over Giwa’s murder. He said nothing but rubbish in his declaration. For a man who called himself a pastor to be lying says a lot about some people who parade themselves as men of God. Omeben should shut up instead of lying all over the place, and accusing others wrongly.”
While throwing an open debate challenge to Omeben over the issue, Tsav said: “To set records straight, and for Nigerians to know the truth and nothing but the truth, I’m throwing an open challenge to Omeben over this issue because both of us were involved in investigations into Dele Giwa’s murder. But what knowledge of the case does Omeben have than mere supervisory one because then he was an Assistant Inspector General of Police. But I was an Assistant Commissioner of Police then in charge of General Investigations Force CID Ikoyi, Lagos, and was directly and deeply involved in the investigation into Giwa’s murder.”
While adding that it was much later that Omeben came into the case, Tsav said initial investigation into the murder was carried out by the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abdullahi Kaltungo who later handed over to him.
“Kaltungo started the investigation but later handed over to me. But later, the then Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Force CID, Victor Pam who later became Gwon Jos was transferred. Omeben replaced him, and even when he saw my reports he commended me, and that is why I’m surprised by Omeben’s latest outbursts. I still maintain it, I’m personally through this medium requesting an open debate between my humble self and Omeben. The debate can take place in Abuja, Lagos or any place of Omeben’s choice,” he declared.
While insisting that Kayode Soyinka was not a prime suspect or has questions to answer contrary to Omeben’s position, Tsav said: “I fear no human being and that is why I will continue to say nothing but the truth. When the bomb explosion that claimed Dele Giwa’s life took place, the police of which I was an integral part then interrogated a lot of people including Kayode Soyinka, Billy, Dele Giwa’s son, Florence Ita-Giwa including the gateman at Dele Giwa’s house. We also interrogated Dele Giwa’s lawyer, late Gani Fawehinmi. We did a thorough job, and in the course of that investigation nothing showed us that Kayode Soyinka had a hand in the explosion. For Omeben to say that Soyinka has questions to answer, to me, is very uncharitable.
“Again, the question Nigerians should ask Omeben is this, if Soyinka has anything to do with the bomb or knows anything about it, would he have agreed to sit down in the same room with Dele Giwa when the deceased wanted to open the letter bomb? Only God knows what Omeben wanted to achieve by fabricating this falsehood. But I will say again that I’m shocked and surprised that Omeben who called himself a man of God can be involved in this kind of mischief.”
While accusing Omeben of harbouring a hidden agenda over the issue, Tsav accused the ex-DIG of failing to honour Oputa Panel invitation in 2005 when he was summoned to explain what he knew about Giwa’s murder while serving in the police force.
“Omeben shunned Oputa panel. He was summoned but he failed to turn up. But I was there on invitation, and I told the panel all I knew relating to police investigations into Dele Giwa’s murder. That is to show you that Omeben is a hypocrite. Nigerians should not take him serious,” he said.
Describing his experience while investigating the case as very challenging, Tsav said investigation into the case was complex because that was the first time a case of letter bomb explosion would take place in the country.
“Another aspect of the investigation that posed serious problem to the police was our inability to quiz some top military officers then including Colonel Ali Akilu, and Colonel Togun. I wrote a letter to higher police authorities seeking permission to have these men quizzed, but I didn’t get any reply until I retired from the force,” he declared.
On the clamour by some lawyers and human rights activists in the country that federal government should re-open investigation into the murder, Tsav said: “There is nothing wrong with that. Although, it is 30 years after now, it is okay if the culprits can be apprehended. Dele Giwa’s family will be happy, and not only that many Nigerians will also be happy. But the first thing they should do is to look for the case file, then after that, the file should be handed over or sent to the Office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State for him to look at it and determine what next line of action to take. The Attorney-General of Lagos State should be the one to handle the case because the crime took place in Lagos, and not only that, Lagos State was also the capital of Nigeria at that time.”
Imploring Omeben to take it easy as he is gradually ageing, Tsav said: “On a parting note, old age is good and everybody prays to live to attain old age. But old age should not be used to cause confusion, or division. It is better to keep quiet rather than make statements that are not only untrue but also capable of creating problems. Omeben as an active police officer was not well grounded in investigation matters. He was in the Special Branch of the Police Force for many years before he was redeployed to Investigations Department. He should not lay claim to those things he was not part of, and he should learn to give credit to whom it was due.”
Giwa, a renowned journalist and one of the founding editors of NEWSWATCH magazine lost his life through a letter bomb explosion 29 years ago, and the culprits responsible for his untimely death are yet to be apprehended.
Since his gruesome death, members of his family and members of the human rights community have always been expressing the hope that the masterminds would be apprehended one day.
However, renewed public interest in Dele Giwa’s murder was triggered two weeks ago following a claim by Omeben that two of the founding editors of NEWSWATCH, Messrs Ray Ekpu and Yakubu Muhammed frustrated his efforts to apprehend the killers following their refusal to release for interrogation, Mr Kayode Soyinka, the London Correspondent of NEWSWATCH magazine,a man he said he considered a prime suspect in the crime.
Omeben who recently turned 80 who spoke with the NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA, , accused Ekpu and Muhammed of facilitating Soyinka’s escape from Nigeria to London instead of handing him over to the police for interrogation.
However both Ekpu and Soyinka had not only denied Omeben’s claims but have also described Omeben as a liar.