Justice served over murder in Osun Hotel
Barring a different view by an appellate court to which convicts in the case may turn to, the controversy surrounding the death of Timothy Adegoke, a postgraduate student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife was recently laid to rest by the Chief Judge of Osun State High Court, Hon. Justice Adepele Ojo.
The eminent jurist found three of the accused persons, including the owner of the murder scene premises – Hilton Hotels, Ile-Ife, Chief Ramon Adedoyin, the hotel manager, Oyetunde Kazeem, and Adeniyi Aderogba guilty of the murder of Adegoke, and sentenced them to death by hanging. The judgment is reassuring as there had been public concerns that the court may not rise to the occasion considering the social status of the suspects.
Indeed, the entire matter is a tragic story of a man whose life was unlawfully shortened for reason(s) still shrouded in mystery. Adegoke was declared missing after lodging at Hilton Hotels sometime in November 2021.
As deduced from various eye-witness accounts, somehow, Adegoke had wound up dead in his room, and without notifying the police or his family, his remains were evacuated from the hotel and buried in a shallow grave elsewhere by Kazeem and Adeniyi on the instruction and supervision of the Managing Director, Roheem Adedoyin (who incidentally is the son of Chief Adedoyin).
Thereafter, the hotel management administered an oath of secrecy to the staff members and also attempted to erase all evidence linking Adegoke to the hotel.
The outcome of the Police investigation and autopsy pointed in one direction –Adegoke had been murdered. From all indications, it was not far-fetched that his killers were likely officers of Hilton Hotels. Accordingly, the Police shortlisted the suspects and set their prosecution in motion. Ironically, while many Nigerians were convinced of the culpability of the owner of the hotel, however, a considerable number of elites and socialites threw their weight behind Adedoyin.
Undoubtedly, Adedoyin is a man of means and connection in society being a renowned multibillionaire educationist and industrialist with chains of businesses and investments across Nigeria and the United States. It was purely a clash of classes!
The status inequality and not so complimentary perception of the present crop of judicial officers heightened the apprehension that substantial justice may be sacrificed on the altar of technicalities at the end of the say. This legitimate fear has now been eliminated by the well-considered judgment delivered by Justice Ojo.
The Chief Judge held that the prosecution, via circumstantial evidence, was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the named convicts are guilty of the unlawful killing of Adegoke; hence rightly deserving of the hangman’s noose.
The distinguished Jurist declared Roheem (who is on the run) wanted and ordered that the hotel and vehicle used to ferry the remains of Adegoke be forfeited to Osun State government, and awarded scholarships to the deceased’s children at the expense of the convicted persons.
On the other hand, she discharged and acquitted three other co-accused persons but sentenced the Receptionist, Adedeji Adesola, to two years in imprisonment for doctoring the hotel receipt issued to the deceased and concealing evidence.
The decision of the trial court is “stark justice based on fairness which to all intent and purposes, seeks to not only dispense justice but which is manifestly seen and duly acknowledged by all and sundry as justice both in content and context.” The judgment has a solid legal, psychological, and economic depth as it is a rich blend of punitive, reparatory, and retributive justice.
While the death penalty befits the crime, Justice Ojo understands that it would not cure the economic hardship now caused to the deceased’s immediate family. Therefore, the forfeiture and financial elements of the punishment are commendable and would serve as a deterrent to other criminally minded persons.
In spite of the broad scope of the judgment, it did not answer the poignant question: Why was Adegoke murdered? Incidentally, all the accused persons failed to furnish the details that would have aided the Court in unravelling this puzzle. The fact that the personal items of Adegoke, including his phone and laptop, were buried along with him completely rules out theft as a likely motive. While the actual intent remains speculative, however, the totality of the facts of the case strongly suggests that the murder was premeditated.
The purpose that the blood of Adegoke served his killers may never be uncovered, nevertheless, the knowledge that they (including fugitive Roheem Adedoyin) will not walk scot-free is still consolatory, albeit, without prejudice to their right of appeal.
That a guilty verdict was slammed on the convicts without any direct evidence linking them to the commission of the crime is a testament to the expertise of the prosecuting team led by Femi Falana, SAN. It is doubtful whether the pendulum would have swung in the same direction if the Police had solely undertaken the prosecution of the matter; not necessarily for lack of competence but over its integrity. It would be recalled that while in Police custody, Adedoyin had made an audio record debunking his alleged involvement in the crime.
The question is: who availed Adedoyin with the recording device? Also, the Police did not initially charge him with the murder of the deceased until it was pressurized to do so. Again, the Police had instituted the matter at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, knowing full well that that Court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the matter since all the elements of the offence occurred in Osun State.
Would it be preposterous to assume that the Police were setting the matter up for possible dismissal by wilfully approaching the wrong court? But for the later transfer of the matter to the Osun State at the instance of Mr. Falana, perhaps, the convicts may have been discharged by the FCT Court on the ground of procedural irregularity.
The death of Adegoke could have been averted had the Police been more proactive in their crime prevention duty. Hitherto, there had been rumours of illicit activities, particularly bordering on allegations of the disappearance of guests and rituals at the Hilton Hotels, Ile-Ife. In fact, the subject matter shares similar circumstances with the Otokoto saga in 1996.
And just like Otokoto’s case, the Police never bothered to investigate the allegations to have at least been in a position to either confirm or refute the same. Had the Police been alive to its responsibility to the people, it would have unravelled the mystery surrounding the hotel long ago and promptly notified the public of its findings. Perhaps, this could have saved Adegoke’s life as no sane person would knowingly lodge in a human abattoir disguised as a five-star hotel.
Suffice it to say that Nigeria failed Adegoke! The systemic rot in the country has only succeeded in claiming lives and truncating the destinies of countless Nigerians. The country is in dire need of a system resetting where public officers would be manifestly seen to discharge their duties diligently, proactively, effectively, and conscionably. The administration of President Bola Tinubu is therefore charged to build a new Nigeria based on national competence, accountability, probity and integrity, as promised.
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