Senate President Bukola Saraki will no longer visit the police over the April 5 Offa, Kwara State bank robbery, it was learnt yesterday. He is to write a statement, which he will send to the police. In all, 33 persons, including nine policemen, were gunned down during the operation.
On Sunday, the police said Saraki would be invited to its Intelligence Response Team’s office in Guzepe, Abuja, to explain his relationship with the suspects., who claimed to be Saraki’s and Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed’s thugs. They also alleged that they were paid and armed by the duo. The suspects, however, said neither Saraki nor Ahmed asked them to rob and kill.
Yesterday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met at the Presidential Villa with Saraki, Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris, Department of State Services (DSS) Director General Lawal Daura and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami. At the end of the about one-hour meeting, the IG declined comments on the outcome. He directed reporters to Osinbajo’s men to brief them on the outcome of the meeting. But they never did. Before that, Osinbajo, Malami, Daura and National Intelligence Agency Director General Ahmed Rufai had met for about one-and-a-half hours at the President’s office.
The IG was not at that meeting.
After the meeting with Osinbajo, Saraki announced that the police had asked him to explain in writing within 48 hours what he knew about the robbery suspects. In a tweet, Saraki said he received a letter from the Police, informing him that he should no longer bother to appear in person to answer questions.
“They are no longer asking me to appear at the station, but to respond in writing to the allegation within 48 hours which I plan to do,” he tweeted. He had earlier directed his ADC, Usman Na’ Abu Danguza, to collect from the Force Headquarters, Abuja the letter inviting him so that he could immediately honour the police invitation. Before the Police cancelled the invitation, a source said senators and some House of Representatives members were planning to accompany Saraki to Guzape any day he was to appear before the police.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital and Offa, the scene of the bloody robbery, scores of people staged solidarity rallies in support of Saraki. The groups of youths, artisans and traders said the robbery “cannot be used to settle political points.” Spokesman of the youths Peter Kayode said: “We are ready to walk from here in Kwara to Abuja in support of our leader.” Some the placards carried by the youths read: ‘Saraki is the leader in Kwara State; ‘ ‘We are one with Saraki in Kwara’; “Haha IGP, this is too much”’etc.
An Offa chief, the Ojomu of Offa, Chief Joseph Akinola, told reporters that the community had left “whaT happened to God, but we don’t want the innocent to be punished. We want the police to go after the real culprits”. The National General Secretary of Offa Descendants Union (ODU), Chief Atinuke Wosilat McCarty, supported Akinola’s view.
In Ilorin, the coalition of Kwara youths under the aegis of Kwara Agenda asked the federal government and the Police to stop politicising the Offa robbery. Also, elders of Ajikobi Central Ward in Ilorin West Local Government Area, where Saraki hails from, said they received with shock the invitation of the Senate President by the police.
The elders, in a statement signed by their coordinator, Alhaji Salihu AbdulWahab Agbaji, said: “It is illogical and unthinkable that the Senate President and the political leader of Kwara State will ask bandits to kill the citizens that he leads.”The plot against our son is as a result of his growing popularity across the country, a situation which is making some of his political rivals uncomfortable. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently call the Inspector General of Police to order so as to allow our hard earned democracy to blossom.”
Members of the coalition of Kwara youths during a peaceful protest condemned the invitation extended to Saraki. The youths, in their hundreds, carried placards with the various inscription, such as “Stop evil politics”;“Be professional”, “No to an overt politicisation of Offa robbery”, “Saraki is not an armed robber’ and “Don’t implicate Saraki.”
The coordinator, Kwara Agenda, Haruna Yakub Kannike, said that the group was surprised by police invitation of Saraki, adding that “nothing can be farther from the truth!”. He added: “Our attention has been drawn to a fresh plot by the Headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, Abuja to implicate the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki in April 5, 2018, dastardly armed robbery attacks on banks in Offa, Kwara state. During the robbery operation that shook Offa to its foundation, many innocent citizens including nine policemen were murdered by the bandit.
“Prominent Nigerians have blamed the wanton killings of harmless citizens in Offa on that BLACK Day on the inefficiency of men and officers of the Nigeria Police. “We are, however, surprised to see the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris wanting to politicize a serious criminal offence by insinuating that our revered Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and our amiable Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had links with five of the arrested armed robbery suspects. Nothing can be farther from the truth!”