The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, is believed to be under serious political pressure to arrest Yoruba rights activist, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, for calling for the secession of the Yoruba from Nigeria.
It was learnt that the police may again attempt to carry out a covert operation to take Igboho into custody having failed to arrest him last month.
Findings indicate that the police authorities are in a dilemma on how to contain the activist who has been demanding the secession of the Yoruba from the country, following the failure of the Federal Government to curb the insecurity in the South-West.
Security sources said the police are being careful not to upset the delicate security situation in the South-West, which may become aggravated if Igboho is forcefully arrested.
This, Saturday PUNCH gathered, informed the decision of the police to invite Igboho.
A senior police officer, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “The IG has been under political pressure to arrest Igboho but some leaders from the South-West have also advised against Igboho’s arrest to avoid throwing the region into chaos. Igboho has a large following which may react violently if he is arrested. The police authorities are in a dilemma over the issue but I think the IG succumbed to pressure from government hawks who are uncomfortable with Igboho’s trenchant calls for the disintegration of the country.”
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The activist had on Friday confirmed that the IG sent letters to him but his security team refused to accept the letter, citing fear for his safety.
In a statement by his media aide, Olayomi Koiki, Igboho said a letter was sent to him on Thursday via courier service while another was brought to his residence by about 15 policemen.
The statement read, “We would like to tell the international community and every Nigerian that this morning, 1st of April, 2021, a letter was sent via DHL to Chief Sunday Igboho but the letter was not received by his security team.
“Later around 3pm of the same day, a team of about six men without uniform arrived in a (Toyota) Corolla car and another nine were in police uniform but all were identified as police officers.
“They wanted to see Chief Sunday Igboho with a letter said to have been addressed to him by the Inspector-General of Police. Again, the letter was not received by Chief Sunday’s security team.
“Chief Sunday would like to know why a letter was sent to him and for what purpose. If the IG of Police wants to invite him, we would like him to first send the same letter to all the bandits and Boko Haram members killing our mothers and farmers and those kidnapping them.
“Since the IG of Police wants to invite him, he should make a public statement addressed to Chief Sunday Igboho. We should all remember how a letter was sent to the late Dele Giwa.”
Igboho became a subject of interest to government after he served a notice to quit on Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the South-West in January.
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The police first attempt to arrest him was on February 26 when he was accosted by security agents around the Guru Maharaji bus stop along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The move was, however, foiled by the activist’s followers.
Speaking on the encounter in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, Igboho had said he did not know why he was being targeted, advising the Federal Government to focus on capturing Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, and invite Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who had been meeting with bandits and requesting amnesty for them.
He said, “I was never invited. They just lay in ambush for me at Guru Maharaji and started shooting. They started shouting, ‘Where is Sunday Igboho?’ I identified myself and asked them what the problem was. They said I was under arrest and I said, ‘For what? On my father’s land?’ That was how it degenerated.
“When they noticed how tense everywhere was, they fled. They came in four Hilux vans and a Toyota Land Cruiser. There are bandits operating all over the place but people like me who are defending our fatherland are the ones you want to arrest. Why?”
Asked if the police had invited him, he said, “I have not been invited. What have I done to warrant an arrest? Why do they want to arrest me? What have I done?”
On whether he would honour a police invitation if invited, Igboho said, “Go and ask them to invite Gumi and Shekau first before disturbing me. Let them face the bandits instead.”
Asked if he would go into hiding, he said, “What for? I am in the neighbourhood. I cannot run.”
Igboho also told Saturday PUNCH that his bank account was frozen for a while before the restriction was later lifted.
Igboho right to reject purported IG’s invitation – YCE scribe
The Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, backed Igboho’s decision to reject the IG’s letter of invitation, saying it was suspicious.
Olajide, who said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on Friday, stated that it was dangerous to receive such a letter especially with the situation of things in the country.
He added that it was not appropriate to have invited Igboho to Abuja, given the dangerous state of roads in the country.
Olajide said if the police had any question for Igboho, he could be engaged by senior police officers in Ibadan, rather than having to travel to Abuja.
Olajide said, “The police, in their structure, have the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Police and other senior police officers. Apart from the police, there is a director heading the Department of State Services in each state, so sending the letter from the IG to Sunday Igboho looks suspicious.
“Even if the invitation is from the IG, I would have expected him to direct his officers in Oyo State to meet Igboho and discuss with him. It is risky to take such a letter and I personally will not take such a letter. The letter raises suspicion, in my own view.
“It is even risky to invite somebody all the way from Ibadan to Abuja. The risk on the highway is there. There are officers around in the state who could ask him any question the police want to ask him. I agree with him not to have received the letter because people have received letters in the past which turned out to be parcel bombs.”
The YCE scribe added that he would be surprised if Igboho’s guess as to the reason for the invitation was correct.
He said, “I will be surprised because Miyetti Allah has said worse things on national television and in the newspapers and nobody invited them for interrogation.
“Our security agencies must be independent and not be partisan so that people will not believe that a particular ethnic group is superior to the others. That is important especially at this critical point where there is mutual suspicion among the ethnic groups.”
Activist has violated no law, SANs tell IG
Also reacting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, said he didn’t know of any law that Igboho violated by refusing to accept the letter from the IG. The SAN added that the activist had reasons to be afraid given the circumstances in which the letter was to be delivered.
Adedipe said, “I do not know of any law that says if a letter is to be delivered to you, you could say no or you could accept it. I would not say that he has breached any law by refusing to accept the letter from the Inspector-General of Police. That is not a crime, because if you say something is a crime or is unlawful, there must be in existence, as the constitution requires, a specific law, whose component provisions are spelt out and penalty provided for non-observance of such law. So, if a letter is to be delivered to a man and he said, ‘I am not accepting the letter.’ That is not an offence.”
The SAN said in order not to create tension, the IG could have invited Igboho on phone or send one or two policemen to deliver the letter rather than a large number of cops.
Adedipe added, “If the man (IG) wishes to invite him (Igboho), he could either put a call through to him or send one or two policemen to deliver the letter, and not send a contingent of nine men to deliver a letter. What kind of letter is that? Are they carrying an elephant? When you had to send a whole contingent, the man is right to be apprehensive.”
Similarly, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said it was morally wrong for the police to go after Igboho while the leaders of Miyetti Allah had not been invited or arrested for their actions.
Ozekhome, who said Igboho had become the face of the Yoruba’s struggle for self-determination, said arresting him would be counter-productive.
He said, “I will advise the police to first arrest leaders of Miyetti Allah who have come out serially to own up to many killings, mayhem, invasion of farmlands and rape of innocent women before thinking of Igboho.
“Igboho’s calls for Yoruba sovereignty are merely verbal. The acts of Miyetti Allah are overt and seen by everybody. Calls for self-determination are legitimate. This is recognised by international instruments and organisations, including the UNO, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, AU, EU and others.
“More important is the fact that Igboho is wearing the new face of the struggle for Yoruba’s quest for self-determination. Arresting or detaining him will be counter-productive.”
Also speaking, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, said Igboho had reasons to be afraid for his life. He advised the activist to honour the IG’s invitation, accompanied by his lawyer, in order not to appear like a lawless person.
Ubani said, “He (Igboho) was saying he was afraid of parcel bomb; you know how Dele Giwa died; he’s being careful. But for me, if the letter comes from the IG, even if he did not accept it for the sake of his safety, he should try to honour the invitation of the IG if the content of that letter is made known to him, as to what time he is needed at the IG’s office. But I want him to ensure that he goes there with his lawyers. The Yoruba are not short of good lawyers; they should go with him to ensure that his rights are not violated.
“I will advise him to honour the invitation and not let it look that he is dishonouring the invitation of the IG and then probably appear lawless. If the invitation is genuinely from the IG, I will want him to honour that invitation.”
FG can’t arrest Igboho without picking Gumi, others – Falana
Reacting to the botched attempt to arrest Igboho in January, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), had said it would be wrong for the Federal Government to arrest Igboho and not pick up Islamic cleric, Gumi, who had been meeting with bandits, and other northerners who had in the past issued notices to quit to southerners.
Falana, who spoke in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, had noted that Gumi had told bandits that Christian soldiers were behind the attacks on them.
Falana said rather than focus on Igboho, the government must ensure that justice was applied equitably.
He said, “Sunday Igboho should not be arrested because those who had issued quit notices in the past were not arrested. Someone like Gumi, who is causing religious division in the military, has not been arrested. Unless they are ready to adopt the same standard, you cannot arrest Igboho.
“Those who gave quit notices in the past were never arrested. In any case, the DSS has denied trying to arrest him. However, you cannot arrest him.”
By Friday Olokor,Adelani Adepegba,Oladimeji Ramon and Olufemi Olaniyi