BY PRINCELY ONYENWE, IMO
NIGERIANS have continued to condemn the possible cause of the cold murder of a one-time former minister of Justice and a presidential candidate of Alliance for Democracy in Nigeria who was killed in December 2001.
James Ajibola Idowu Ige, SAN (September 13, 1930 – December 23, 2001) simply known as Bola Ige was a Nigerian lawyer and politician. He became Federal Minister of Justice for Nigeria.
He was murdered in December 2001. James Ajibola Idowu Adegoke Ige was born in Zaria, near Kaduna in northern Nigeria on September 13, 1930. His parents were Yoruba natives of Esa-Oke town, in the old Oyo State (now in Osun State). Bola Ige left Kaduna and headed south to the Western region at the age of 14.
He studied at Ibadan Grammar School (1943–48), and then at the University of Ibadan. From there, he went to the University College London where he graduated with a Law degree in 1959.
He was called to the bar in London’s Inner Temple in 1961. Bola Ige established Bola Ige & Co in 1961 and later became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He became well known in the country for his oratory prowess, as well as his advocacy work on civil rights and democracy.
Uncommonly, Bola Ige spoke all the three major Nigerian languages, Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa fluently. He wrote several books, and an anthology of articles and tributes about him was published shortly after his death.
Bola Ige was active during the military government. Following the restoration of democracy in 1999, Bola Ige sought the nomination of the Alliance for Democracy party as a presidential candidate but was rejected.
President Obasanjo appointed Bola Ige as minister of Mines and Power (1999-2000). He was not able to make significant improvements to the service provided by the monopoly National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). He then became Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2000-2001). In September 2001 Bola Ige said that the Federal government had initiated a program to re-arrange and consolidate the laws of the Federation, publish them in digital form, and make them available on the website of his ministry. He campaigned ardently against the imposition of Sharia law in the northern states of Nigeria.
In November 2001 he said that the Federal government would not allow the Sokoto State government to execute the judgement of a verdict passed by a Gwadabawa sharia court to stone a woman, Safiya Hussaini to death for committing adultery.
Bola Ige was about to take up a new position as African’s Representative on the United Nations International Law Commission when he was gunned down in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. On 23 December 2001, Bola Ige was shot dead at his home in the south-western city of Ibadan.
He had been entangled in squabbles within his Alliance for Democracy party in Osun State. The previous week, the long-running feud between Osun state Governor Bisi Akande and his deputy, Iyiola Omisore, had apparently contributed to the death of an Osun State legislator, Odunayo Olagbaju.
The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo deployed troops in south-western Nigeria to try to prevent a violent reaction to the murder. Although various people were arrested and tried for involvement in the murder, including Iyiola Omisore, all were acquitted. As of November 2010, the killers had not been found.
Again in 2016, the Special Investigative team set up to probe the unresolved murder of former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief. The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on the order of President Muhammadu Buhari, re-opened the murder case and set up a team of investigators to unravel Ige’s killers.
According to Vanguard, the investigators have discovered that four days before Ige was killed, the prime suspects had gone to Abuja to collect huge sums of money to cover the cost of the operation.
“In fact, about four days to the date of Bola Ige’s murder, one of the prime suspects travelled to Abuja for funds. Even during the first encounter, the visit to the palace of the Ooni of Ife, where the cap of Bola Ige was removed and thrown away, the prime suspects had returned from Abuja with cash,” a source told the newspaper.
One of the suspects, who was cheated when the money was shared, was said to have let out information about the money.
The suspects, however, were unable to identify the financier, but the source said the police will have no hard time unravelling the sponsor, given new technology and information. On whether the financier was a government official, the source said:
“For now, that is the mystery we need to unravel but with modern methods of investigation and new technology, the person will be uncovered.”
In a speech at his funeral, he was quoted as saying that he was sure that Nigeria was worth living for but he was not so sure that it was worth dying for.
This is so terrible to behold and the government has to Improve the fight against the wanton killings and the destruction of human beings. It is good we recall that the security and warfare of citizens are the most important.
9News Nigeria (Owerri)
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