I will go on hunger strike over impunity level — Ugolor

David Ugolor

The Executive Director, Africa Network for Economic and Environmental Justice, David Ugolor, was arrested for allegedly masterminding the killing of the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Olaitan Oyerinde.  In this interview with JAMES AZANIA, Ugolor, however, says he was framed

Why were you linked with Oyerinde’s murder?

The police claimed that one Garuba Masamari mentioned to them that one David contracted them to kill Oyerinde. My name is David Ugolor, we have Davids all over the country, so how the police now came to the conclusion that it was David Ugolor that asked them to kill Oyerinde is very surprising. It is still something that I cannot understand. The court discharged and acquitted me based on the report of the Director of Public Prosecutions.  When I read the DPP report, it was obvious that the police deliberately framed me, to create confusion and to hide their incompetence from the Nigerian public.

Are you satisfied now that you have been acquitted?

I am not satisfied. It’s not about me; it’s about Nigeria, it’s about the gruesome murder of my good friend, Olaitan Oyerinde.

Satisfaction can only come when justice prevails, as we speak, justice has not prevailed. That’s why I am saying that it’s not about David Ugolor; it’s about the Nigerian state, it’s about how Nigerians will continue to view the police and how Nigerians will take seriously the transformation message of President Goodluck Jonathan.

If I was found guilty, it would have been a death penalty for what I did not know and never did. It is in the interest of the President to end the culture of impunity in the police.

You have said your arrest and arraignment was a frame-up, are you saying those who killed Oyerinde are walking free now?

If you recall, three days after my arrest on July 27, the State Security Service paraded a set of people who confessed to Nigerians that they killed Oyerinde.  Items stolen from Olaitan’s house were traced to them and they were all displayed including his wedding ring, iPad and computer. Those people confirmed how they carried out the operation and the SSS handed over the suspects to the police. The next thing was that they said one of the suspects said I contracted them to kill Oyerinde. When the suspects were paraded, the gang leader said they got their information through Oyerinde’s gateman, but as we speak, the police who have the gateman in their custody have not charged him to court neither have they released him. So, on what premise are the police continually detaining the gate man? These are questions Nigerians need to be asking the police authority. What strikes me most is that the police think once they can get rid of me, they can move on.

Why would you think the police falsely accused you of killing Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s aide?

As a leading human rights activist in the country for 25 years, I could have stepped on a number of toes, which is not deliberate but it is an attempt to create a better society. The political elite do not find my work in the oil and gas sector and good governance in Nigeria comfortable. I am just a victim of that. How was Ken Saro-Wiwa hanged? Those that are in power in Nigeria today think they can kill, frame people and do all kinds of things. Nobody can play God, and that’s my message to the police hierarchy.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole has expressed misgivings over the police failure to bring the perpetrators of the murder to book. What’s your own position on this?

The police made an attempt to manipulate the public but we are better informed. The outcome of the DPP’s advice and my discharge in court showed clearly that the four suspects, who the police arrested for the killing of Oyerinde, were actually not the people who killed him. As a matter of fact, two among these four suspects that the police said killed Oyerinde were actually armed robbers in police custody since April 24 and Oyerinde was assassinated on May 4.

What was your relationship with the late Oyerinde?

I was the founding Chairman of Publish What You Pay Campaign, the leading civil society movement working on good governance in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria, and during my leadership we had people like Ledum Mittee and the late Beko Ransome-Kuti and others like Oyerinde in that movement. I will soon embark on a hunger strike to draw global attention to the level of impunity in Nigeria. It is important that Oyerinde does not die in vain and we all have that responsibility in Nigeria.

How has all these affected your activities?

I think that was the primary aim of framing me. When I was arrested, the deputy commissioner of police who was investigating the case was asking for the account number of ANEEJ. I was wondering what the account number of ANEEJ had to do with the death of Oyerinde, but because they say ‘a clear conscience fears no accusation,’ I gave it to him. I gave my SIM cards to the commissioner and as we speak, I am not sure that any investigation was carried out. I am not sure that any was carried out because they knew that they were playing a script handed to them by their master. What they don’t know is that we need organisations like ANEEJ in Nigeria because if we destroy organisations that fight for values, we are invariably encouraging the society to move in the direction of violence, as represented by Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country. Take for instance the leader of the Boko Haram that was  killed in the North by the police, after the military handed him over to them, you saw what later happened. Perhaps if they had been taken through the normal judicial process, I am sure it would have paid off better for the society today. If Ken Saro-Wiwa was not unjustly murdered by Abacha’s dictatorial regime, do you think what we experienced in the Niger Delta struggle would have happened? It is not in their interest to kill human rights activists. They should learn lessons from Libya. Gadhafi killed those who were opposed to him; they should learn lesson from Saddam Hussein, where are their families today? It will happen in Nigeria. Some in leadership in Nigeria will face the International Criminal Court. If after my hunger strike, I get no justice in Nigeria, I will have no other option but to cry to the international community. I will exhaust all avenues.