Suspects in murder of 'Cicero' in court

Eleven men suspected of taking part in the murder of Nigeria’s justice minister appeared in court on Monday amid preparations for a politically explosive trial.

Bola Ige, a friend and confidant of President Olusegun Obasanjo, was shot dead at his private residence in the southwestern city of Ibadan on December 23 last year.

No formal charges were laid against the suspects—who include the son of the deputy state governor and a member of the state parliament—and the case was adjourned until next week. Nigeria has been wracked by political and ethnic violence since its return to civilian rule in 1999, but the 71-year-old attorney general is still its highest profile assassination victim.

His death has been linked in press reports to rivalries within the southwestern political elite.

Monday’s hearing at the Ibadan High Court was the first time the 11 suspects, who have been remanded in police custody, have been formally and publicly identified.

They include Alani Omisore, a younger brother of Osun State Governor Iyiola Omisore, and Lambe Oyasope, a member of the Osun state legislature. Ibadan is in Oyo State, which borders Osun.
Also among those facing charges were the slain minister’s driver, two drivers from his office, and a police sergeant. In addition to the 11, whom journalists said were brought to court under tight security and in a sombre mood, two more suspects, including another policeman, are still at large.

Defence lawyers complained that the suspects had not been served with “proof of evidence”, officials said. Judge Atilade Ojo therefore granted a prosecution request for a one-week adjournment for prosecutor Olubunmi Oyesina’s office to prepare the necessary paperwork, they said.

Ige, who was nicknamed Cicero after ancient Rome’s most renowned orator, was until Obasanjo’s election in 1999 the best known politician from southwest Nigeria.

His appointment to his friend’s cabinet was controversial as he was not a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party but of the rival Alliance for Democracy. - Sapa-AFP

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