By Christopher Oji
The year 2019 would not be forgotten in a hurry as all manner of crimes were unleashed on the country ranging from robbery, kidnapping, cultism and ritual murder, among others.
Daily Sun, in this flashback, re-examines some of the crimes that Nigerians witnessed in the year.
Towards the end of 2019, a police inspector attached to the highway patrol shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself after a disagreement. It was gathered that the policeman, identified as Edward, was drunk at the time he pulled the trigger on his wife at close range.
The inspector, whose wife was a Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) inspector at the Ikoyi Station, was said to have stormed their warder barracks flat on a Saturday night, and a squabble soon broke out. It was alleged that the couple were in the habit of quarrelling and their situation got worse after the lady opted out of the union. Her threat, it was learnt, was borne out of the man’s paranoid and possessive nature.
On December 27, a stowaway was found in the wheel of an Air Peace flight bound for Owerri, Imo State, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. The man, in his 20s, said he thought it was an international flight. Security agents arrested him. Another pilot of a private jet alerted the Air Peace pilot, who informed security personnel attached to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and they nabbed the stowaway. The airline’s spokesman, Mr. Stanley Olisa, said the incident happened on December 27, at the MMA1 Lagos .
As the year was ending, the news of a mother and son, who connived to kill a final-year Theatre Arts student of Lagos State University (LASU), Favour Daley-Oladele, for money rituals, went viral. Owolabi Adeeko and his mother, Mrs. Adeeko, had lured Favour from Lagos to Osun State, where she was killed and dismembered. Favour was declared missing by the Divisional Police headquarters at Mowe, Ogun State, on December 8. Through investigations, Favour was traced to a white garment church in Ikoyi-Ile, Osun State, pastored by Segun Philip.
She was killed and her heart used to prepare pepper soup for Owolabi and his mother. Philip was paid N210,000 for the money making ritual.
A Christmas Day tragedy was recorded in Alor, Idemili South Council Area of Anambra State, as a middle-aged man was shot dead by a Department of State Service (DSS) officer. Onyeocha Umuokwu, a domestic staff, was allegedly hit by a stray bullet from the DSS officer attached to a VIP’s house in his bid to gun down a fleeing cow. “Umuokwu was shot by a security man at Engineer Eze’s house on December 25, 2019, in Alor. The cow broke loose and was on the run and a security man on duty aimed to shoot the cow, but mistakenly shot and killed Onyeocha Umuokwu,” a source said.
Confirming the report, the state police command spokesman, Haruna Mohammed, said: “The DSS official mistakingly fired at the deceased when he missed the target on a cow.”
On November 29, a Lagos resident, Sulaimon Okunola, accused a mobile police officer, Ibuka Steven, attached to MOPOL 20, Oduduwa, Ikeja, and Alapere Police Station, of killing his wife, Aramide Okunola.
Okunola claimed that Ibuka beat his wife, a sickle cell sufferer, to death with a horsewhip. According to the complainant, the policeman, with whom they occupy the same compound, flogged his sick wife mercilessly for fighting his wife, Juliet Ibuka, and then dragged her to Alapere Police Station, where she was detained and refused to take her medicine.
He said his wife died afterwards, leaving him and their three children bereaved.
Ibuka, who returned home on November 23 in a rage, was said to have dragged the deceased out and started flogging her in the presence of her three-year-old daughter.
Bala Elkana, Lagos State Police Command spokesperson, while confirming the incident, insisted that it was a case of assault.
Another tragedy that shook the country in 2019 was the alleged killing of three policemen by some soldiers during a mission to apprehend a notorious kidnap kingpin.
The police had accused some soldiers of shooting to death three police officers and a civilian along the Ibi-Jalingo Road in Taraba State.
The police operatives led by Felix Adolije of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) reportedly came under sudden attack while taking a kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Wadume, to the police command headquarters in Jalingo.
Force spokesman, Frank Mba, explained in a statement in Abuja that one police inspector, two sergeants and a civilian died as a result of gunshot injuries sustained in the attack.
He noted that the soldiers shot the policemen despite sufficient proof that they were on legitimate duty, and, subsequently, freed the suspect, Wadume, who had been on the police wanted list for his complicity in several kidnap cases, including the abduction of an oil mogul in Taraba State in which a ransom of about N100 million was paid.
The flag at the Nigerian office of Maersk Line, a multinational shipping company, in Apapa, Lagos, was flown at half-mast in December following the killing of the wife of the managing director of the company, Mrs. Tohouo Gildas Tohouo.
It was gathered that the Tohouos were relaxing at home when the light to their apartment went off and Olamide Goke, one of the suspects, according to a police source, who was an electrician, arrived at the entrance to the flat minutes later with his toolbox and, after fiddling with some wires for some time, told the Tohouos that the fault was from a fuse box inside the flat.
It was gathered that when Mrs. Tohouo went to open the door to let him in, Goke, said to be the mastermind, stabbed her with a kitchen knife that he had tucked inside one of his pockets. She was said to have called out to her husband, who sprang up, dashed to the door only to run into the waiting arms of Goke and his accomplice, Ade Akanbi, who stabbed him also. Mr. Tohouo slumped and Goke and Akanbi immediately took his wallet and ATM card from where it was kept. They fled the scene, but were later apprehended.
Same year, the body of a Taxify driver, Gabriel Wisdom, was found around Abijo in the Ajah area of Lagos State.
It was gathered that some persons had contacted Wisdom to convey them to a particular destination in the metropolis. On their way, the passengers pounced on the driver and killed him.
What looked like fiction transpired in the year under review when the police arrested 19-year-old Victor Orji in Lagos for allegedly burning his 24-year-old lover to death for infidelity, at G54 Army Post Service Housing Estate, Ojo.
Orji, alleged to be a fraudster, was said to have poured petrol on his lover, Mariam Alabi, after she went to stay with another man for two years.
Many people were shocked when on September 27, the police rescued over 500 men and boys from a torture camp in Kaduna. Two other torture camps were also later discovered in the same state. On Saturday 19, 147 detainees were rescued by the police in Rigasa, Kaduna.
Similarly, on November 4, police operatives discovered a detention camp in Ibadan, Oyo State and freed 259 detainees. In Lagos State, IRT uncovered two illegal wine factories.
Another crime that held the country spellbound was the issue of cultism, which a senior police office described as the worst that happened to the country in 2019. He said all over Nigeria, there has been an outcry about cultism.
He said, in the past, cult-related matters were restricted to university or polytechnic campuses, but “today, primary school children and artisans are recruited every day.”
There was pandemonium in Pako and Surulere areas of Lagos after a clash between two rival cult groups on December 16. The RRS later restored normalcy to the area.
The Department of State Services (DSS) was again in the eye of the storm over the arrest and detention of someone it regarded as “a threat to national security,” publisher, journalist, rights activist and presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 election, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested “for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country.”
The agency had called on Nigerians to disregard Sowore’s “threat of revolution,” after he declared his intention to lead a movement tagged ‘Revolution Now’ on a protest slated for August 5.
The public relations officer of the DSS, Mr. Peter Afunanya, said in an address to newsmen in Abuja: “Nigeria is not a banana republic and cannot suddenly be made one. So, the DSS will not just sit by and watch individuals or groups wanting to rise and threaten the peace and unity of the country.”
Sowore was kept in detention despite court orders for his release on bail. He was eventually let out of custody in December but was rearrested a day later in the court premises, drawing the ire and condemnation of many observers, including authorities of the United States. The DSS was compelled to release Sowore and former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), who had been incarcerated since 2015 for alleged corruption to the tune of billions of naira after a directive from the Presidency at Christmas.
Attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, said in a statement: “My office has chosen to comply with the court orders while considering the pursuit of its rights of appeal and/or review of the order relating to the bail as granted or varied by the courts.
“In line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and in compliance with the bail granted to Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) (as recently varied by the Court of Appeal) and the bail granted to Omoyele Sowore, I have directed the State Security Services to comply with the order granting bail to the defendants and effect their release.
The running battle between cattle herders and farmers was a major problem for most residents and security agents in 2019. At least 1,000 people lost their lives during the year under review, including the March killing of 33 people in clashes in Kaduna State during two days of violence between herders and farmers in Kajuru village, 50 kilometres outside the city of Kaduna, said state police commissioner, Agyole Abeh.
“A total of 33 people were killed in the violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers,” said Abeh.
Southern Kaduna has seen a spate of deadly clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herders, a historically nomadic people who graze their cattle on the land.
Originally, the clashes resulted from disputes over land and water rights. But ethnicity and religion have been playing a larger role in the conflict after post-election violence in 2011 that saw hundreds of Muslims killed and forced to flee the area.
Without a national strategy in place to address the conflict, tensions between herdsmen and farmers have not subsided, and tit-for-tat killings have become common.
Experts blame a heavy-handed, militarised response by the government and incendiary comments from political and religious leaders for fanning the flames of animosity.
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, has said the Yoruba would react to the killing of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of a senior leader of the Afenifere socio-political group, Reuben Fasoranti, who was shot dead along Kajola-Ore Road in Ondo State.
Police said kidnappers attacked her, but the Afenifere insisted Fulani herders killed her. Herdsmen have been blamed for several kidnappings and attacks on travellers recently.
Senior political figures, including President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, have condemned the attack.
Adams, who is the leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, once a militant group in the South-West, described Mrs. Olakunrin’s killing as “one too many.”
In a statement by his media assistant, Kehinde Aderemi, Adams said the Yoruba were not at a loss as to what to do to end the “atrocities of Fulani herdsmen,” but had continuously issued statements to call the attention of the world to the development.
“We only want the whole world to know what has been done and is being done to our people,” he said.
During the year under review, religious organisations suffered heavy blows as gunmen attacked priests.
Recently, gunmen killed a Catholic priest, Rev. Father Clement Ugwu, who was said to have been kidnapped from his parish, St Mark Catholic Church, Obinofia Ndiuno, in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The body of late Fr. Ugwu was found in a bush decomposing a week after he was kidnapped.
The abduction of Catholic priests almost became a daily event in Enugu State. On July 4, 2018, Rev. Fr. Paulinus Udewangu of St. Marks Catholic Church, Nsude, Udi LGA, was kidnapped while he was jogging. Rev. Fr. Ugwu was kidnapped on Wednesday 13, March 2019, around 9pm after they had shot him in the church premises.
“We will arrest Nnamdi Kanu if he comes home for his mother’s burial,” was how the Nigeria Police responded to the news of the death of the leader of the pro-Biafra group, Indigenous People of Biafra, and statements that he was coming home to Nigeria after he jumped bail and escaped from the country.
There were speculations that Kanu was planning to return to Nigeria for his mother’s funeral when she passed away after a protracted illness in Germany, on August 30, 2019. In an interview with The Sun, state police commissioner, Okon stated that police would not spare Nnamdi Kanu if he sets foot in Abia for his mother’s burial or any other place in Nigeria for that matter because the IPOB leader was a wanted person. The commissioner equally warned that the police would not hesitate to arrest any IPOB member who may want to be identified as belonging to the group during the burial.