On Tuesday, students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, will gather to mark the 19th anniversary of a cult attack in which five students were murdered in cold blood.
The attack, carried out in the early hours of Saturday, July 10, 1999 led to the death of 21-year old 400-Level Law student and the then Secretary-General of the Students Union, George Iwilade, fondly called Afrika.
Others killed in the attack were Eviano Ekeimu, 400-Level Medicine; Yemi Ajiteru, an extra year student, Babatunde Oke, 100-Level Philosophy, and Godfrey Ekpede.
They were shot dead in Blocks 5 and 8 of Awolowo Hall of the university allegedly by members of Black Axe Confraternity, alleged to have been sponsored by the then university vice chancellor, Wale Omole.
Mr. Omole was accused by students of aiding campus cultism, alleging he did not show seriousness in fighting the menace; but that, rather, it was commonplace for cultists caught by students to get their way back to the university without reprimand.
Even though he denied the allegations several times, Mr Omole was relieved of his appointment on the recommendation of a panel of enquiry set up by the federal government through the Ministry of Education then headed by Tunde Adeniran, a professor.
One of those who believed in Mr Omole’s complicity is the then Students’ Union president, Lanre Adeleke. A survivor of the attack himself, Lanre Legacy as he was fondly called then on campus, said victory lies in justice.
Like Mr Adeleke, Tayo Iwilade, a lawyer and brother of one of the victims, also yearns for justice for his brother.
In separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, the two claimed they were still crying for perpetrators of the attack to be brought to justice.
“At the early hours on July 10, 1999, between 3:30a.m to 4a.m, a large number of cultists belonging to the Black Axe Confraternity arrived OAU campus with the intention to carry out assassination of leaders of the union fighting against irregularities,” Mr Adeleke, who was the Students’ Union President at the time, told PREMIUM TIMES.
The unsuspecting Mr Iwilade was said to have led the parade of nine members of the Black Axe Confraternity that same year.
A parade on OAU campus is a shaming act of taking culprits round the campus as a deterrence. It is mostly done to cultists, thieves and others who have committed grave offences against university rules.
The paraded suspedted cultists were Evimori Kester, Dele Aromoloye, Larry Obichie, Uche Obichie, Ikechukwu Mordi, Mayowa Adegoke, Olakanmi Ogundele, Bruno Arinze and Lanre Ajayi.
Four months after the parade, suspected cultists launched a reprisal attack on OAU campus.
“The apprehended cultists (alleged) that they were sponsored by the then University Managements led by Prof. Wale Omole”, Mr. Adeleke, who escaped being killed by jumping from the third floor of Block 8 of the Obafemi Awolowo Hall where his room was, told our correspondent.
THE ARREST AND TRIAL
Mr. Adeleke told PREMIUM TIMES that it was on record that some of the notorious cultists were apprehended by students, handed over to the police and allegedly confessed to being sponsored by the then Vice-Chancellor.
He lamented that due to the corrupt judicial system in Nigeria, the suspects were later discharged and acquitted.
“We started the arrest from the day it happened. We went after some of them that we had their names. We were able to pick about 33 of them out of about 48, they were arraigned and we pursued the case in courts for good three and half years. For three and half years, I was practically doing nothing. We go to court almost every day to make sure just prevailed.”
Mr. Adeleke said the Justice Okoi Itam-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry that first sat to look into the attack rebuked Mr. Omole’s administration and the matter was then left for the court to decide.
The case first suffered a setback when Justice Yusuf, who initially handled it, allegedly lost interest in the proceedings because of his being overlooked for the position of Chief Judge by the Osun State Government.
“We were always in court because we wanted justice. Unfortunately, there were internal issues in Osun State then which was part of the reasons why justice was not done. That was the real set back we had after three and a half years due to the complications of the judicial system itself.
“Despite the fact the judicial enquiry under the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo asked that the VC be tried, no government has made effort. No government has the morals.
“Even the Bursar at that panel of enquiry confirmed to us what one of the cultists said; that they were given over N300,000 two days before the incident to buy ammunition for security reasons. It was established. The money was given to them on July 8 through one Kazeem Bello who was not even a student of Ife but a student of UNILAG. They arrested Kazeem then and he made confession.”
Mr Adeleke said despite evidence of identification by a witness who claimed to have seen Mr Idahosa, one of the suspects, with arms on the morning of the murder, and the confession of Kazeem Bello, the court held that he had no case to answer.
He is however still bent on getting justice for the deceased.
“A criminal case is not something that ends like that,” he said. “It has a long life. Even if we forget about those that were illegally discharged, what about others? I knew many of them ran away immediately after the attack but that’s not the issue. The issue of justice is not about arresting everybody. Even if it is few or even one or even Professor Wale Omole, people will have this sense of relief. The victory lies in how much we are able to make sure cultism do not rise by bringing these people to book.”
Repeated efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to reach Mr Omole were unsuccessful. He did not return calls or reply to text messages sent.
FAMILY’S LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE CONTINUES
For the family of the late Mr Iwilade, the then Secretary General and one of the victims, the long wait for justice continues.
The victim’s brother, Tayo Iwilade, a legal practitioner and rights activist, told PREMIUM TIMES that the pursuit of justice is never over until justice is served and seen to have been served, no matter how long it takes.
“In 1999, the family presented a detailed memorandum to the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by the then federal government. Our father personally presented and gave oral testimony to support the memorandum before the commission. Unfortunately, all that we saw were mere recommendations which the government that set up the commission did absolutely nothing about.
“There were more than enough information and pointers to assist the authorities track and bring every single one of the criminals that assassinated sleeping students on that night at Ife to justice; but as with everything wrong with Nigeria, the then authorities never bothered.”
Mr. Iwilade said the family also monitored the criminal trial of three of the suspects, which ended in “circumstances we consider strange to date.”
When asked if the family still had trust in the judicial system on the matter, he told our correspondent of how the system has betrayed his brother and other victims.
“The answer to that is blowing in the wind. Our judicial system has a whole lot of growing-up to do to be able to really meet the aspirations of the society; and to be able to recognise and deliver what true justice really is. However, it’s important that we know that courtroom criminal trials are just a subset, though a very critical one, of the administration of criminal justice system. Among others, there are the investigative and prosecutorial arms of this system which the judicial arm has almost no control over.
“In the case of the July 10, 1999 Ife assassinations, a key question you want to ask is whether the investigative arm of the criminal justice system have delivered well on its duty towards the search for justice? Obviously, it hasn’t.
“Or how else do you explain that over 30 to 40 band of criminals invaded a university and shot down defenceless sleeping students for well about or over an hour, yet society hasn’t been presented with a list of who these criminals are? Thereafter, the same band of criminals drove out of the university unchallenged. More than enough leads and pointers to who the marauders were have been supplied to the authorities yet those responsible for investigations when such dastardly crimes occurred appear to have left the victims to their fate.
“Difficult as it is, as investigative journalists, you may wish to find out why the few trials ended in strange circumstances so the public can appreciate how clumsy the road to justice for the defenceless citizens killed on OAU campus on July 10, 1999 has been. But we will get there.”
APPREHENSION AMONG STUDENTS
The current students of OAU, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, are however, raising concerns over security situation on campus as some of their colleagues’ exhibit tendencies similar to those of cultists.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how many students of the university recently raised fears over cult-like activities which include harassment, bullying, open use of illicit drugs and flaunting of fraternal paraphernalia now rampant on campus.
A student who shared his experience with PREMIUM TIMES narrated how he was driven to the bush by suspected cultists and beaten, all in the name of initiation.
PREMIUM TIMES also obtained the evidence of a text message, inviting the students to their meetings which venue was not disclosed in the text.
The students mentioned public places on campus where such acts are rampant as AngloMoz car park between male and female freshmen halls of residence, the halls of residence, New Buka and the academic area.
THE UNIVERSITY REACTS
Speaking on the security fears, the school’s chief security officer, Babatunde Oyatokun, confirmed receiving reports relating to concerns raised by the students who spoke with our correspondent.
He, however, said the university would keep working to maintain its reputation for a peaceful campus and zero tolerance for cultism.
Mr. Oyatokun doused tension caused by the arrest of a suspected cultist on campus recently.
“He was invited by one of our students to the campus. He is a student of Oduduwa University Ipetumodu, a private University here in Ife. So because of that we referred the case to police and asked them to investigate him.
“We took his picture and declared him undesirable on our campus. So, that was the step taken by us,” Mr Oyatokun said.
He said there had only been one reported case of bullying or harassment.
“Concerning bullying, well, the only information I have was that of a 200-level student that slapped a 100-level student and both of them are in my custody. I have obtained statements from both parties and anyone that is liable, the university has a template. There is an internal mechanism to handle such cases. I have completed my report.”
Stating further, he said: “We are working tirelessly on students that may have tendency of taking hard drugs.”
He added that security officers had inspected all pharmacies on campus to check if they were selling codeine or Tramadol.
“So, for now, we have not been able to lay hands on any and we are still working on it seriously. Our men are on patrol day and night with covert and overt surveillance, ” he said.