Mysterious escape – The Nation

  • Nigerian Army must unravel how convicted major escaped from military barracks

Was it a case of trust as a result of prolonged professional and personal relationship, which was unfortunately betrayed, a perverse form of esprit de corps or outright criminal conspiracy and insider collusion to allow a convict escape the law for yet to be unravelled reasons? This is the riddle that a military board of enquiry is currently striving to unknot after the mysterious initial escape on February 7, of a convicted army officer, Major Akeem Oseni, from the premises of a General Court Martial (GCM) in Abuja, after the court had found him guilty along with two others for the murder of a colleague, Lance Corporal, Benjamin Collins.

The GCM had sentenced Oseni as well as Major Ogbemudia Osawe and Second Lieutenant Nuhu Dogary to 10 years imprisonment for manslaughter. They had allegedly moved the deceased from custody in a guardroom at Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja, to a bush by Ihejirika Quarters along Abuja-Nyanya Expressway, where he died after being assaulted by the convicts and his corpse later deposited at the mortuary of Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja. Another accused, Captain S.E. Amosu, was discharged and acquitted by the GCM having been found not guilty.

But for the commendable diligence of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force as well as the Department of State Services (DSS), which collaborated in the manhunt for the escapee, Major Oseni would have easily melted into anonymity as he had slipped through the supposedly secure walls of confinement. That he was eventually apprehended at the Cotonou International Airport at about 2pm West African time in Benin Republic on February 10, shows how close Oseni was to achieving his objective.

It is only natural and right that the military authorities are embarrassed and displeased at the manner of Oseni’s escape and thus determined to get to the root of the matter despite his re-arrest. The army’s signal on the incident captured the drama of the escape vividly as it reported: “However, after pronouncement of judgment, the accused officers marched out of the court premises with Captain K.S. Chime, and proceeded to Captain J.E. Akwaraonwu’s office. Thereafter, Major Oseni took an excuse from Captain Chime to use the toilet. At about 7pm same day, Major Oseni was nowhere to be found. A thorough search was carried out within and outside the mess’ premises but the accused was not found”.

Was the convict allowed to go and ease himself as he requested apparently unaccompanied based on trust? Is that in accordance with standard practice as regards the treatment and movement of persons in legal custody, particularly convicts? Or is it a case of conspiracy to breach security requirements, possibly for pecuniary or other benefits? These are the questions that an army board of inquiry is seeking answers to so that anyone implicated in this inexcusable lapse can be uncovered and sanctioned.

In pursuance of its task, the board of inquiry has detained and is investigating six personnel – Lieutenant Dogo, Captain Chime, the military court escort, the court guard and two other soldiers. We urge the board to do a thorough job and look into the possibility of collusion even beyond those currently under investigation. The seriousness and swiftness with which the army authorities responded to the development and involved other security agencies in hunting down and re-arresting the escapee deserve applause and demonstrate the efficacy of inter-agency collaboration in thwarting criminal infractions.

No less laudable is the attitude of the army authorities, which did not lapse into complacency once the escaped convict had been apprehended. If it is a case of insider collusion and conspiracy for whatever motive, it will be a grave security threat for such obviously unreliable and untrustworthy collaborators who lack integrity to remain undetected, unpunished and available to perpetrate even more dangerous breaches of security in future.

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