Kayode Soyinka, a former London Bureau chief of Newswatch who was present when Dele Giwa, the co-founder of the magazine was bombed to death in 1986, has reacted to recent claims by a retired police investigator that he fled after the attack and was never questioned.
In a recent interview with newsmen, Mr Chris Omeben, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, who was in charge of investigating the murder, said Mr. Soyinka was shielded from being quizzed.
Mr. Giwa was killed through a letter bomb while having breakfast with Mr. Soyinka in Lagos.
Mr. Omeben, now 80, said Mr. Soyinka was the principal suspect in the attack, and wondered how he survived the powerful blast when he was in the same room.
He said Mr. Soyinka apparently left the scene shortly before the explosion. Mr. Omeben subtly faulted widespread accusations against the then military regime of Ibrahim Babangida, which many blame for the killing.
While speaking with newsmen from his London base, Mr. Soyinka, who is now the publisher of Africa Today magazine, said he was questioned twice by the police after the incident.
He accused Mr. Omeben of deceit, and labelled him a “disgrace” to the Nigerian Police, who worked with the former military regime to cover up the crime. He said the real suspect in the murder was Halilu Akilu, a former army intelligence officer, who called up Mr. Giwa’s house repeatedly to get the description to the property on the day of the attack.
“I gave statements not once but twice to the same Nigerian Police he represents before I eventually left Nigeria. The first one was at the hospital where I was admitted – Dele’s body was next door to me. That interrogation by a senior police officer whose name I cannot recall took place on the spot when the incident was still fresh. It was inside the hospital. Dele Olojede (publisher of defunct 234next newspaper) was beside me – he is alive, go and ask him,” he said.
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Mr. Soyinka recalled that Halilu Akilu called Mr. Giwa’s house about three times within 24hours and spoke to Funmilayo, Dele’s wife, to know how to get to the journalist’s Ikeja home.
“On the Sunday of the bomb blast Dele had spoken to Akilu from his upstairs bedroom before coming down to have breakfast with me, to tell him that he heard he had called him on Saturday and asked why. The letter bomb was delivered to the house within 45 minutes after that early morning telephone discussion between Dele and Akilu. So who should be Omeben’s ‘principal suspect’ then? Should it be me who was bombed with Dele? Or Akilu?
“His ‘principal suspect’ should be Halilu Akilu, who called Dele’s house about three times consecutively Saturday before the Sunday bombing and spoke to Funmilayo, Dele’s wife, to ask for description of and direction to Dele’s house in Ikeja.
“Omeben, said, and I quote: ‘Soyinka knew what was coming and he left the room to hide behind the wall.’ What a blatant lie? This man, who I understand is now a pastor, has no fear of God in him at all, making such bold erroneous statement like that on an issue of such sensitivity and accusing me, an innocent man – a victim and survivor of the bomb blast. He should ask God for forgiveness!