On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Offa, Kwara State was thrown into chaos when a group of at least 25 armed robbers staged an attack on some commercial banks along Owode Market area including the police station in the area.
The robbers attacked seven banks including Union Bank, Eco Bank and Guarantee Trust Bank. Official reports initially put the death toll at 18, with residents insisting that more than 30 people died during the attack. A month later, the police confirmed that robbery indeed claimed 33 lives.
Investigations around the robbery began immediately, where the IGP (Inspector General of Police), Ibrahim Idris ordered the deployment of three units of Police Mobile force, high powered investigation team and Armoured Personnel Carriers to Kwara.
Three days after the incident, 7 suspects were arrested in connection with the robbery. On April 13, 12 more suspects were found and arrested by the police. Ipads, sim cards and phones belonging to victims of the robbery attack were found on them. On Sunday, 3 June 2018, the Nigerian police released a statement inviting the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to answer questions following confessions from the robbery suspects implicating him.
“The Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki is being invited by the Nigeria Police Force to report to the Force Intelligence Response Team office at Guzape, Abuja to answer to the allegations levelled against him from the confessions of the Five (5) Gang Leaders and some of the other 17 suspects arrested for direct involvement and active participation in the Offa Bank Robbery and the gruesome killing of 33 innocent persons which includes some pregnant women and nine Police personnel,” - Jimoh Moshood, Police Force Public Relations Officer.
What does Saraki have to do with any of this?
The suspects, while answering questions from the press, claimed that they were political thugs of the Senate President and his successor as Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed. A Lexus Jeep used during the robbery also had a license plate of the Senate President on it. One of the robbery leaders confirmed that the Jeep was given to him by Governor Ahmed’s Chief of Staff, Yusuf Abdulwahab, who is one of the arrested suspects.
“My involvement with the Senate President is that we are 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, he's the one that is arranging everything for us. For example, this car 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." - Ayodele Akinnibosun, one of the leaders of the robbery gang.
Ayodele Akinnibosun also revealed that two of the guns used during the operation were supplied to him by Abdulwahab, although he allegedly supplied it for political thuggery and not the Offa robbery. He further mentioned that their sponsors, Saraki and Ahmed, didn’t know about their robbery plans.
Saraki described the allegations as baseless and ploy by the Police to implicate him. He stated that he was among the first public officials to visit Offa at the time of the robbery, and couldn’t have been associated with it.
Let’s backtrack a bit...
Before the back and forth with Saraki around the Offa robbery, there had been some history between the Senate, led by Bukola Saraki and the IGP. The upper legislative chamber, in multiple instances, has invited Idris to personally answer questions about the treatment of Kogi Lawmaker, Dino Melaye, by police officers, as well as general security issues across the country.
He was summoned three times; April 26, May 2, May 9 and failed to show up each time. His failure to personally acknowledge the invitation led to being declared an enemy of democracy and unfit to hold office by the Senate. The IGP, on the other hand, maintained that his personal appearance was unnecessary and he could send representatives to the Senate.
Following the ongoing feud with Ibrahim Idris, Bukola Saraki, on May 16th alerted the Senate and President about a suspected plot in his name by the Inspector General of Police. He alleged that he had received information from the Kwara State Governor alerting him of plans from the IGP to frame him in a criminal matter. Saraki’s colleagues at the Senate resolved to send a delegation to President Muhammadu Buhari to inform him about the plot.
Saraki strongly believes that the Offa allegation is a plan by Idris to settle scores with him over the declaration of the Senate that he is not qualified enough to hold any public office.
“In my view, this plot is an act of desperation blackmail, intimidation, abuse of office and crude tactics aimed at turning our country into a Police State. The tactics are aimed at turning the country into a state where top officials cannot be made to obey the law, follow due process and subject themselves to constituted authorities.” - Bukola Saraki
Saraki has a point...
While it is possibly true that a vehicle Saraki gifted was used in the armed robbery operation, it is hard to corroborate that with the idea that he knew about the robbery. One of the robbery gang leaders, Ayodele Akinnibosun, to start with, mentioned in a press address that Saraki and the Governor of Kwara state did not know there was going to be a robbery operation. If Saraki had no clue, then his claims about being framed may be credible.
The ongoing feud between him and the Inspector General of Police also makes it hard to ignore the possibility of serious politicking behind the scenes.
It's hard to guess how this case will be spun next as more events keep unfolding. Yesterday, for example, the Senate President was asked to present his case in writing to the Police as opposed to visiting. This came after a closed-door meeting with Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
As the story develops, Nigerians must be aware of the fact that this could just be another story to create distractions ahead of the 2019 elections.