At a time the Nigeria Police Force is facing serious calls for the disbandment of the Special Ant-Robbery Squad (SARS), the Inspector General Police's monitoring team and ZONE 5 Anti-Vice counterpart headed by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Wale Ajibuwa have been accused of conniving with IGP Ibrahim Idris to free one Mr. Johnbul Owebaze, a murder suspect.
Owenaze, the notorious former Chairman of the defunct Iguomon Community Development Association (CDA), jumped bail on several occasions at the Edo State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) allegedly through the help of Richard Balogun, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and the head of anti-kidnapping unit, who is one of the major beneficiaries of the land exploit and criminal escapades of the (CDA) activities while it lasted.
Policemen in Okhuaihe Division, in collaboration with Balogun, the O/C anti-kidnapping, and the O/C Anti Vice AIG ZONE 5, are the ones fingered in the aiding and abetting of criminal activities of thee notorious criminal gang of Iguomon Community, led by Owenaze and others, five of whom have been remanded at the Federal Maximum Prison, OKko, Benin city. Their alleged crimes include the murder of some indigenes of Ikhuonbo community and the robbery and vandalisation of properties worth millions of naira in ikhuonbo.
In the latest development, Owenaze was declared wanted by the IGP Response Team after he had earlier jumped bail three weeks ago with the help of DSP Balogun of the Edo State Police Command Anti-Kidnapping Unit. Having been arrested last weekend by the IRT operatives, Owenaze was handed over to the office of ASP Ajibuwa for the filing of murder, robbery, kidnapping and instigation of native war charges against him.
The source revealed that instead of ASP Ajibuwa to hand over the suspect to men of the IRT, who had knowledge of the several cases and petitions against him, he allegedly collected the sum of N2.5million bribe from the suspect, hurriedly referred the case to the O/C legal unit of the state's CID for immediate prosecution with lesser charges, and dropped the charges of murder, robbery and kidnapping to ease his chances of receiving bail at his next day in court.
A policeman who asked not to be named told SaharaReporters: "It's quite unfortunate that the reckless corruption exhibited by both Ajibuwa and Balogun this morning has paved the way for a self-confessed murderer like Johnbul Owenaze to escape justice via light charges before a magistrate court in Ehor against the actual charge of murder for which he was arrested and investigated."
"It is alleged that ASP Ajibuwa's unholy activities in Ikhuonbo and Iguomon communities are connected with the free lands he forcefully acquired to erect three buildings in addition to a state-of-the-art-hotel nearing completion.
"These officers have become so rich contrary to how an average police officer should be. They have questionable and undefendable wealth, unworthy of policemen of their rank. ASP Ajibuwa has recently been quoted as having collected an undisclosed amount running into millions of naira from Johnbul Owenaze with the promise to kill the case hanging on him for which he was arrested."
While these officers and their men are shielding Owenaze from the law because they have benefited hugely from his criminal activities as Iguomon youth Chairman, the IGP,AIG zone 5 and the Edo State CP have been kept in the dark.
A source disclosed that both Ajibuwa and Balogun send kickbacks to the the two previous Police Commissioners, Ejike and Gwando, who often come to their defence anytime they ran into trouble; the practice continued long after they had been transferred out of Edo State.
Mr. John Isede, a Benin-based civil society advocate, urged the IGP, AIG ZONE 5 and Edo State CP to urgently conduct proper investigation into the alleged murder case levelled against Owenaze, saying justice must be served in the interest of peaceful coexistence between the two warring communities since the suspect's collaborators have been jailed for the same murder case they were all involved in.
When contacted, both Ajibuwa and Balogun debunked the allegations of freeing Owenaze, extorting money from ''Yahoo boys' or having houses in the US or in Iguomon community.
"I only got a call from the IG Response Monitoring Team from Abuja not to release a criminal suspect that was held in my custody in the person of Johnbul Owenaze, which I heeded," Ajibuwa said.
"I swiftly released the suspect to the team on their arrival to Benin. The case was thereafter transferred to State Police Headquarters and was charged to court by O/C legal for prosecution."
He said he couldn't have shielded Owenaze from murder charges because the same suspect earlier petitioned him to the Police Service Commission for dismissal for a matter he knew nothing about in the past.
"The allegation of collecting millions of naira from 'Yahoo boys' is pure falsehood because all cases of arrest made since I became O/C anti vice are usually charged to court without delay," he added. "I think that has been my major offence. The other allegation of owning a house in the US is laughable. I don't know the road to the international airport, much less having an international passport or owning a house in the US,."
Balogun was not amused with what he called "wicked allegations against me to tarnish my image and rubbish the good work I have been doing as the O/C anti-kidnapping at the State Police Headquarters".
"The only time I ever had anything to do with Owenaze was when I was mandated from Abuja to track his location for possible arrest, which I did and he was arrested around bypass along Sapele road area in Benin City," he said. "Anyone with the pictures of the alleged three houses I'm said to be building at Iguomon community with paper documents should come forward with them as proof that I actually own them."