President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said he had no objections to any plan by the police to arrest Senate President Bukola Saraki over a string of murder cases in Kwara State, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The president received Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris at the State House on Friday afternoon, during which he was told of at least 20 murders allegedly linked to Mr Saraki in his home state, according to multiple sources briefed of the meeting.
Sources said the police chief arrived at the State House with a cornucopia of homicide investigation documents relating to Mr Saraki. The top lawmaker could be arrested any day from now following the president’s position that the law should run its course insofar as detectives have sufficient facts to file charges.
Already, the police have declared Mr Saraki a person of interest in the deadly robbery incident in Offa, the second-largest settlement in Kwara State. The police said at least 17 persons, including nine police officers, were killed and five banks raided in the April 5 attack.
The police said the death toll from the robbery has risen steadily to 33 as at last week. Twenty 22 suspects, including a dismissed police sergeant, have been announced arrested.
Mr Saraki was amongst the first set of leaders to condemn the attack and called for a sweeping investigation and prosecution of all suspects.
In a statement on Sunday, police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, said at least five of the suspects arrested in the robbery “admitted and confessed to have been sponsored with firearms, money and operational vehicles” by Mr Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed, the state governor.
While parading the suspects on Sunday afternoon, Mr Moshood identified one of them as Ayoade Akinnibosun, a 37 years old resident of the state and the ‘overall’ leader of the armed gang. His vehicle was allegedly one of those used in the robbery. A number plate allegedly registered in Mr Akinnibosun’s name superimposed on a sticker number plate which had ‘SARAKI’ boldly written on it.
Amongst top Kwara government officials named in the robbery were Yusuf Abdulwahab, the chief of staff to the governor, and the environment commissioner.
The police said Mr Abdulwahab, 58, had been taken into custody, but it was not immediately clear whether it was in connection to the robbery. Some local news reports out of Kwara said Mr Abdulwahab was arrested on fraud charges unrelated to the robbery two days ago.
Mr Sakari has been asked to turn himself in at the police intelligence department in Guzape, Abuja. No date was specified for the summon. The Senate President could be arrested if he fails to turn himself in as demanded by the police, especially as he enjoys no immunity from prosecution.
But Mr Ahmed, whose position as governor accords him absolute immunity from criminal charges, has denied the police claims against him .
In a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Monday afternoon, Mr Ahmed said the police allegation that he armed and funded suspects for political thuggery or for any other activity was “false and unfounded.”
The governor said he had never been involved in or encouraged “thuggery or any other form of criminality.” He said the state government provided funds for youth in the state for small businesses; but neither him nor the state government should be held responsible for how the youth use such funds.
On his part, it was not immediately clear whether the Senate President will honour the invitation. His spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Sunday afternoon did not return PREMIUM TIMES telephone calls and text messages seeking comments about the police invitation and Mr Buhari’s approval.
Presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, did not return multiple requests for comments. Neither did Mr Moshood answer enquiries about Mr Idris’ visit to the State House and the invitation to Mr Saraki.
The disclosure that Mr Saraki had been implicated in murder cases comes three weeks after an open confrontation played out between the police and the top lawmaker.
But the confrontation was over separate criminal suspects arrested in connection to multiple gang killings the state over the past two years. The police abruptly moved the suspects to Abuja after the were arrested in Kwara and charges were being prepared against them over there.