A three-decade-long botched probe of Dele Giwa’s death has triggered a call for fresh investigations and prosecution of suspects in the high profile murder by lawyers and activists.
Mr Sumonu Oladele Giwa was killed on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1986, via a lethal mail delivered to him at his Adeniyi Jones Avenue residence in Ikeja.
Giwa was the founder of the Newswatch magazine which hit the newsstand in 1984 and worked with his team — Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed.
After he was bombed into extinction, a lawyer and human rights activist, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), filed series of applications before the court for the prosecution of the murder case.
In one of his applications, Fawehinmi had requested the Attorney-General of Lagos State for a certificate, endorsing him as a private prosecutor to handle the case.
Fawehinmi died in September 2009, while the case remained inconclusive.
Lawyers, including the eldest son of the late legal icon, Mohammed Fawehinmi, were unanimous in the call to launch a fresh investigation into the journalist’s death.
They say it is a settled principle of law that time does not run against the state in criminal trial.
“There is a dire need to re-open investigations into the murder case of Giwa; the police should conduct investigations without further delay.
“Up till now, no arrests were made by the police. I believe the case should be re-opened,” Fawehinmi said.
Another Lagos human rights lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo also shared the views of Fawehinmi, insisting on a conclusive probe into the cold-blooded murder and prosecution of suspects.
He said: “When a case has to do with murder, it is imperative that until the suspects or perpetrators of the act are arrested and prosecuted, investigations cannot be closed.
“All over the world, so far as the perpetrators of a crime have not been arrested, the files cannot be closed.
“It is my submission that those behind the murder must be brought to justice before you close the case.”
Mr Ogedi Ogu, an activist-lawyer of the People’s Development Initiative Foundation, also said that the crime should not be swept under the carpet.
“It is an elementary principle of law that time does not run against the state in criminal cases of this nature; the death of Dele Giwa was a `rude shock’ to all of us and so is the inconclusive nature of the case.
“It is also unfortunate that justice was not served, in spite of the efforts of the late Chief Fawehinmi.
“For those of us in the struggle for the emancipation of peoples in Africa and Nigeria in particular, the murder of Giwa remains a pain in our necks.
“We shall continue to call on the government and its agencies, as well as the office of the Attorney General, to bring this case to a logical conclusion,” he said.
According to Ogu, the circumstances surrounding the death of Giwa must be resolved not only for the family, but also as a mark of respect to humans, particularly in a democracy.
A constitutional lawyer, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, urged the Federal Government to direct the Attorney General of the Federation to revisit the case. He said the most important thing to do was to collate fresh and cogent evidence which could lead to a possible conviction in the court of law.
“With the anti-corruption posture of the present administration, I am optimistic that it will keep the police and the judiciary on their toes.’’
To Mr Adebayo Ayodele, non-prosecution of such a case has cast a slur on the country’s justice system. He said he was saddened that 30 years after the brutal murder of Giwa, the perpetrators had yet to be brought to book.
“It is simply distressing and disgusting; it is quite sad that Giwa’s murder, the first of its kind in the country, is yet to be resolved and perpetrators yet to be brought to justice.
“The journalist and others like him have lost their lives doing what they believed in and have passion for.
“The case should be re-opened since it does not fall under statute of limitation; it is not too late for our leaders to do the right thing.
“The perpetrators are still alive and are still walking free in the country.”
According to him, for a country to experience peace, it must ensure that there is equal right, fairness and judicious dispensation of justice. Ayodele insisted: “There cannot be peace where and when there is no justice.
“The rich cannot be above the law when they kill or maim others, while the poor who stole a tuber of yam because he is hungry will be sent to prison for several years.
“My fear and caveat is that the case may never be reopened because of the faulty justice system in Nigeria and the general corrupt nature of our country.”
Also contributing, Mr James Alabi said: “Injustice to one is injustice to all.
“Giwa’s case should be reopened just as the current Federal Government has shown interest in the murder case of the late Justice Minister, Bola Ige.
“The dead is gone, but for those of us still alive should always seek that justice is practically done to serve as a deterrent to others.’’
On the fiat for the re-opening of the case, Mr Chibuikem Opara, put the blame at the doorstep of the Attorney General (AG) of the Federation.
“Gani Fawehnmi could not prosecute the case because he was a private prosecutor; he needed the fiat of the AG.
“Even when the fiat is given, there is a law in Lagos State prohibiting a private prosecutor from trying indictable offences except perjury.
“The case can be reopened by the AG or anyone with the fiat of the AG also if any fresh evidence is presented,” Opara said.
House 25, Talabi St., off Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, was a Mecca of some sorts on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1986, when life was snuffed out of Dele Giwa in his prime at age 39.
The ace journalist would have turned 68 years today if the parcel bomb delivered by merchants of death to his then 19-year-old son, Billy, had been rejected.
Giwa’s colleague, Newswatch’s London Bureau Chief, Kayode Soyinka, who was with him at the time of the tragic event, reportedly suffered perforated eardrums.
Giwa died at the First Foundation Hospital, Ikeja, where he was rushed to after the explosion.
Born on March 16, 1947 to a poor family working in the palace of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the then Ooni of Ife, Giwa attended Local Authority Modern School in Lagere, Ile-lfe.
When his father moved to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife as a laundry man, he gained admission into the school. Dele Giwa had travelled to the U.S. for his higher education, earning a B.A in English and Communication Arts from Brooklyn College in 1977 and enrolled for a graduate programme at Fordham University.
He worked with the New York Times as a news assistant for four years after which he relocated to Nigeria to work with Daily Times.
Later, in 1984, Dele Giwa and the trio of Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed founded Newswatch and the first edition was distributed on Jan. 28, 1985.
A 1989 description of the magazine said it “changed the format of print journalism in Nigeria and introduced bold, investigative formats to news reporting in Nigeria”.
The murder occurred in the first few months of the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who took power in Aug.1985. Vanguard