Our Benin bureau chief, VICTOR OSEHOBO, examines the circumstance under which Mrs. Funke Oyerinde, widow of Mr. Oyerinde, the late Principal Private Secretary to Edo State Governor, would go public with the allegation that his best friend is holding on to documents for the deceased’s landed property, three years after he was killed at his residence in Benin City.
The last time Rev. David Ugolor, the Executive Director Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ and graduate of Agric Economics from Edo State University, Ekpoma, made headlines was in the aftermath of the murder of Mr Olaitan Oyerinde, the late Principal Private Secretary to Edo state governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Ugolor who was arrested along others allegedly for their roles in the crime, was later set free by the courts which granted him millions of naira against the Nigerian Police Force for the wrongful arrest, illegal detention and violation of his human rights.
After that victory in court, Ugolor was to get plenty of publicity as he tried to campaign for a new police force in Nigeria. In fact, Ugolor’s treatise on how the Nigerian Police should function is a serious matter that is better reserved for another report.
It would be recalled that in 2013, one year after Oyerinde was murdered, Ugolor was active in a memorial lecture for the late activist, ditto 2014. However, three years later, the reverend was out of the country as the Edo State government organised a public lecture for Oyerinde.
It is also on record that since last year Ugolor has spent more time at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom studying for a PhD. His regular programmes on local media havediminished while he has strolled into the country to organise one or more media parleys with a select number of reporters to ensure the Nigerian media has not forgotten him.
This week, it took the widow of the late Oyerinde, Funke, in Benin City to bring Ugolor back in the full glare of the public with respect to the life and times of her late spouse. As she told the crowd at the lecture that her late husband’s best friend, Rev. Ugolor was still holding on to the deeds of his landed property three years after his death.
Mrs. Oyerinde said, “I am not saying (Rev. David) Ugolor is the killer; God knows the killer. But Ugolor should release my husband’s documents. He is still holding it.”
She added, “If he knows that he loves himself, he should release my husband’s document. I have lodged complaints; I have told the governor but nothing has been done about it.”
The widow who was married to the late Comrade for almost 13 years, and is presently the Executive Director, Edo State Liaison Office, Lagos also said that almost of her husband’s friends have abandoned her and the children he left behind.
“I am totally disappointed that a majority of my late husband’s so called friends, colleagues and the likes all seem to have forgotten him. They have forgotten all of us that he left behind.”
Mrs. Oyerinde however appealed to law enforcement agencies to fast track investigations into the killing of her spouse even as she expressed reservations about the very slow pace the exercise has assumed in recent times.
She was confident that the new Federal government under General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) would ensure the husband’s killers are fished out.
That Ugolor and Mr. Oyerinde were close is an understatement. It is on record that the deceased helped Ugolor secure a N67 million contract to renovate some schools in Edo State, including Iyoba Secondary School while he was an aide to the governor.
Ugolor reportedly confirmed that Oyerinde introduced Westfield Construction Company Limited to the Edo State government and supported the firm to pre-qualify and secure the contract, and, “without any conditions.”
This was one of the lots as Ugolor had several other deals prompting the later to begin erecting a house for Oyerinde somewhere in Benin. Ugolor and Oyerinde were very close.
The narrative of Oyerinde’s murder is a script that would make a Nollywood epic. The two men in the house when the gunmen struck were Mr. Oyerinde man and his wife’s brother.
One narrative says the gunmen reportedly first seized his brother in-law who was asleep in the bedroom and asked him who owned the house. He led them into the sitting room where Oyerinde, tired after the night out with Ugolor, was sleeping on the sofa.
The gunmen then asked the slain man for his gun before they shot him point blank severally. The gist was that the killers were briefed, they did not know Oyerinde and they knew he had a gun.
The other narrative by Ugolor is as follows, “On that fateful day, I received a phone call from Mr. Olaitan asking for my whereabouts. I replied that I was in Etete with a friend called Cele who is also known.
“Mr. Olaitan asked me where we should go for a drink. I suggested Madam Sarah’s place, which he agreed. My friend later drove me to that place which was about six minutes drive.
“At that place, we met some of our friends, including the younger brother of the Comrade Governor. After some time, Ms. Ada and her sister joined us, so we were five all together. Later Cele with (his) sister also joined us.
“…I took Harp. Mr. Olaitan took small Red Label. The NNPC staff took Heineken. Mr. Cele took Red Bull with Ada and her sister (Ada’s) took Smirnoff Ice. After the drinking, we left in Mr. Olaitan’s official car (Toyota) Avensis. Olaitan dropped Ms. Ada and her sister at the Boston Hotel, and later dropped me at home. And said to me that he was going home. I went into the room and slept off.
After sometime between the early hours of the following morning, I heard a loud shout from my window, saying ‘my husband has been shot!’ I quickly picked my phone and called the control room to formally inform them of the incident.
I later drove with Mrs. Olaitan to their house, which is about three minutes drive from my house. When we got to the scene, the brother in-law, Olaitan’s wife, gateman and me carried Mr. Olaitan into my car and took him to Central Hospital. When we got to Central Hospital, at the emergency unit, nobody was around, and Mr. Olaitan was bleeding profusely for about 30 minutes.
“Then I decided to call the ADC to the governor who later called the Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Health. By the time the doctor and nurses arrived, it was too late and the doctor later certified that he was dead.
Mrs Oyerinde was no doubt referring to documents relating to the four-bedroom bungalow at Abuja quarters, off Ugbor road, Benin City, which is on a plot of 100 by 100.
Her husband reportedly paid Ugolor who is the supervising contractor N6 million before his death while the reverend had expended N9 million working.
Before his sudden death, the friends were supposed to meet to review the expenses so far and agree on the next work plan to complete the house so he could move into the house. The documents relating to this house are said to still be in Ugolor’s custody.
Commenting on the allegations made by his friend’s wife, Rev. Ugolor described Mrs. Oyerinde’s allegations as baseless adding, “The property was not in dispute. It is not my property. The document I have is the one containing the money I spent on the (Olaitan’s) building.”
In essence, the reverend expects to be paid his N3 million before parting with the documents! But by who?
He also said the widow, “has not contacted me in the last three years. The woman knows the house and the man that sold the land is still alive.”
Meaning Ugolor and Mrs. Oyerinde have not been in the best terms and have not communicated since their link was killed.
Who will break the ice? Who can break the ice? For options, the labour community, which Oyerinde belonged to before he was brought to Edo State, can intervene.
Just that right now the community is at war with itself with the factional leadership at the national level. The next group is the government of Osun and Edo States.
Ugolor wants his money, without which he is not ready to part with the documents belonging to his best friend who was shot and killed in cold blood.