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Police invite Saraki for ‘sponsoring’ Offa Bank Robberies

The police have invited the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over the Offa bank robberies on April 5 during which some policemen were killed and millions of naira stolen.

He was asked to report to the Force Intelligence Response Team Office at Guzape, Abuja to answer to the allegations reportedly levelled against him by five alleged gang leaders involved in the robberies at First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Ecobank, Zenith, Union Bank and Ibolo Micro-Finance Bank, all in Offa, Kwara State.

The alleged gang leaders include Ayoade Akinnibosun, 37; Ibikunle Ogunleye,36;  Adeola Abraham, 35;  Salawudeen Azeez, 49; Niyi Ogundiran, 37 and  17 suspects arrested for direct involvement and active participation in the heist in which nine policemen, and 33 persons including some pregnant women were killed.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, announced this in Abuja on Sunday while parading the suspects arrested in connection with the multiple robberies.

Apart from the gang leaders, other principal suspects said to have implicated Saraki in their confessions are Michael Adikwu, 30, who allegedly killed 22 persons at the police station, Kabiru Afolabi,26;Omoseni Kassim,28; Kayode Opadokun,35; Kazeem Abdulrasheed, 36; Azeez Abdullahi, 27 and Adewale Popoola, 22.

Others are Adetoyese Muftau, 23; Alexander Reuben, 39; Richard Terry, 23; Peter Kuunfa, 23; Ikechukwu Nnaji, 29; Moses Godwin, 28; Adeola Omiyale, 38; Femi Idowu, 34; Alabi Olalekan, 49 (Personal Assistant, (Political), to the Kwara State Governor) and Yusuf Abdulwahab, 58, Chief of Staff to the Kwara State Governor.

Moshood stated that the arrest of the gang leaders and others was made possible after the arrest of Ogunleye and Adikwu whose images were captured by the Closed Circuit Television camera at one of the banks which were circulated to the media and the public.

He explained that two AK47 rifles, two beretta pistols, one revolver, and one Toyota Lexus RX300 SUV with Kwara number plate, KMA 143 RM belonging to Akinnibosun used in the robbery were recovered.

Other exhibits, he added, included a Mercedes Benz car with Lagos registration number, LT496 KJA also belonging to Akinnibosun, Toyota Prado SUV with number plate 19KWGH belonging to Olalekan, a Toyota Camry Saloon Car with number LRN 481 FE and the sum of N600,000.

Four mobile handsets and one sticker number plate with the inscription, “SARAKI” “Kwara, State of Harmony,” were also said to have been recovered from the suspects.

The police spokesman said, “The gang leaders namely, Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salawudeen Azeez, Niyi Ogundiran and some of the other 17 suspects arrested for direct involvement and active participation in the Offa bank robberies admitted, confessed and volunteered statements that they were political thugs of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.”

Moshood stated that the suspects also admitted to have stolen millions of naira from the banks and 21 AK47 rifles from the armoury of the police divisional headquarters, Offa, noting that they gave detailed information about how they planned and carried out the robberies.

He stated, “The five gang leaders further confessed during investigation that they are political thugs under the name Youth Liberation Movement aka “Good Boys” and confessed to have been sponsored with firearms, money and operational vehicles by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.

“Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senator 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 gang leaders,” the police stated.

Moshood narrated that investigations indicated that the Lexus SUV with the sticker, ‘SARAKI’ ‘Kwara, State of Harmony,’ used during the bank robberies was hidden on the premises of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Ilorin, Kwara State, while the sticker was replaced with number plate, Kwara, KMA 143 RM.

He stated that the sticker was recovered from one Adeola Omiyale who drove the vehicle to the Government House, Ilorin after the robberies on instructions of Olalekan, the Personal Assistant to the Kwara State Governor “who was privy to information that the police are looking for the Lexus SUV as an exhibit.”

The police spokesman stated, “The Personal Assistant (Political) is currently in police custody, and he has made a statement, which is assisting the police in further investigations into the case.

“A revolver pistol and pump action gun were recovered by the Police Investigation Team from Olalekan’s farm where he directed his brother to hide them after his arrest.”

In order to conceal evidence, the police said Abdulwahab, the Chief of Staff to the Kwara State Governor, who is in custody, arranged for the removal of the sticker number plate from the exhibit vehicle and also registered the SUV to Akinnibosun who was already in custody for more than six days before the registration of the vehicle.

Moshood stated that investigation was ongoing and effort was being intensified for the arrest of other suspects, adding that all those involved in the crime would be arraigned in court for prosecution on completion of investigations.

We worked for Senate President as political thugs – Gang leader

Akinnibosun in an interview with journalists said he worked as a political thug for Saraki in Kwara South, Kwara North, and Kwara Central Senatorial Districts, while he was in the Peoples’ Democratic Party.

He explained that the gang assisted the Senate President to disrupt elections at polling centres his party could not win, adding that he had been working for Saraki since he was the Kwara State governor.

“We are the ones that do political arrangements for him; for example where we can’t win (elections), we make ‘dabaru’ (rigging) arrangements there. We scatter elections if we don’t win,” said the gang leader, who is also the head of a youth group in Kwara State, Liberation Youth Movement.

The suspect, however, said Saraki and the governor were not privy to the bank robberies, insisting that the only connection the two politicians had to the incident was the gang’s relationship with them.

“They did not send us to carry out the robberies, but because we are their political thugs, that was what led us into robbery. We have been their political thugs so that was what encouraged us to do what we were doing,” Akinnibosun stated.

Suspect accuses Kwara COS of providing firearms

When asked about the rifles used in the robberies, the suspect said, “It is Abdulwahab, Chief of Staff to the Kwara State Governor, that gave us the guns, (but) the Chief of Staff was not aware of the robbery.”

Akinnibosun also admitted that the SUV used for the heist was donated to him by the Senate President through the Chief of Staff.

Allegation baseless, but I’ll honour formal invitation – Saraki

Responding, Saraki in a statement issued by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, dismissed the allegation, describing it as baseless. He said he had no link with any band of criminals.

Saraki said the plot was concocted to embarrass him because of his insistence that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, should appear before the Senate to explain reasons for the rampant killings and violence across the country.

The statement read, ”The attention of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has been drawn to a story circulating online and apparently derived from a press conference addressed by the Police Public Relations Officer, Moshood Jimoh, linking him (Saraki) to the Offa robbery.

“Dr. Saraki will want the entire public to disregard this claim as a baseless allegation and another ploy by the Police to implicate him by all means.

“Let it be known that there is no way I could have been associated with armed robbery against my people. When the Offa robbery incident happened, I was the first top public official to pay a visit to the place and right there in the palace of the traditional ruler, I put a call through to this same Mr. Ibrahim Idris, the IG, requesting him to make certain specific security arrangements as demanded by the people.

“Members of the public will remember that on May 16, 2018, I alerted the Senate to the information passed on to me by my state governor, Dr. Abdulfatai Ahmed, over a plot by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to frame me by getting some suspected cultists arrested in Ilorin to implicate me. It is believed that the timely leakage of the plot in that case aborted the use of the suspected cultists to implicate me. Now, it is the Offa bank robbery suspects that are about to be used.

“This plot is concocted to embarrass me and, in the mind of the IG, it is his own response after his refusal to honour the invitation by the National Assembly, headed by me, for him to come and offer explanations on the rampant killings and violence across the country.

“Like the earlier one, this frame-up will also fail as I hereby state categorically that I have no link with any band of criminals.

“As a person who has utmost respect for the rule of law and all constitutional institutions, when the invitation from the Police is formally extended to me, I will be ready to honour it without any delay.

“It is however sad that this abuse of the criminal investigation process aimed at intimidating and over-overawing the legislature, thereby obstructing it from doing its work, is a big threat to our democracy.”

Ahmed denies sponsoring, arming political thugs

However, the governor also on Sunday refuted police allegations of sponsoring, funding, arming or otherwise supporting political thugs.

Ahmed in a statement  by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, in response to a Nigeria Police statement accusing him of sponsoring political thugs allegedly linked to the Offa armed robbery incidents, described the allegations as false.

He also rejected his alleged indictment by the Nigeria Police or the armed robbery suspects in their custody.

Ahmed said that while the state government had empowered several youth groups under its Small and Medium Enterprises scheme neither he nor the state government could be held liable for how beneficiaries utilise the facility.

He therefore urged the police to complete their investigations and charge the suspects to court soon in line with the dictates of the rule of law.

Akorede said, “Ahmed denies the allegations of supporting political thuggery or any other acts of criminality as alleged by the Nigeria Police or the suspects allegedly arrested in connection with the tragic Offa robberies. Neither has he at any time funded or provided arms to any individual or group in the state or anywhere in the country.

“To set the records straight, the Kwara State Government has a well known empowerment scheme under the Small and Medium Enterprises platform which is used to move women and youths groups into entrepreneurship. Consequently, several youth and women groups have benefitted from the scheme to date. However, at no point did the Kwara State Government directly provide funds to any group known as Good Boys for any purpose.

“Similarly, if any of the beneficiaries chose to use the SME credit secured from the government to purchase a vehicle which was then alleged to have been used for an act of criminality, the Kwara State Governor and indeed the state government cannot be held liable for such actions since neither had prior knowledge of such intentions on beneficiaries’ part.

“Ahmed also rejects the police allegation of arming and funding the suspects for political thuggery or for any other activity as false and unfounded as thuggery or any other form of criminality is neither encouraged nor supported by the  state government or its agents.

“While refuting the alleged indictment, therefore, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed expresses the hope that the police will soon complete its investigations and charge the suspects to court in line with rule of law.”

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