This tale also portrays the ineptitude of the Nigeria judiciary and how the family and friends this young pilot, trailblazer, amazon and icon ever got justice even as the police caught her assailants.
Hadiza Oboh checked out as a Flight Officer (F/O) aboard a Boeing 737-200 of the Nigeria Airways in 1984 and in 1989, she was already a well-established pilot and remained in the aviation industry all through to the 90s.
She was single and lived alone in her residence 43A Bourdillion Road home in Ikoyi, with her domestic helps, One Abdullahi, Peter Echie and others; sadly she was so focused on her career and probably did not notice the green eyes that glared at her with so much repulsion, jealousy and anger just for being successful in her chosen profession.
One of the domestic servants and chief orchestrator, Abdullahi, worked as the gate-man, security watch and gardener in addition to handling some other household and had access to all parts of the house.
Around 8pm on that unfortunate February, Hadiza Oboh drove from the airport to her home and it was Abdullahi who opened the gate for her as she arrived from work she headed for her bedroom while one of the domestic workers helped her with the flight bag.
Hadiza’s help took her flight bag to her bedroom and noticed a lot more foreign currencies than usual in the bedroom along with a lot of designer wears, jewel-studded bracelets, gold chains and many others, maybe it was there that the murder was premeditated or maybe it has been a plan in the working for a while but one thing was certain these material things spurred the assailants into action.
After resting up from her flight, Hadiza headed straight to kitchen to prepare a meal for herself, a meal anyone reading this story would assume was her last, however she was never to taste that meal.
Unbeknownst to her, Abdullahi her gate-man had sneaked out and opened the gate for the other three connivers who entered the residence.
One of the brains behind the plot was Peter Iduwu Eche from Benue State, trained as an auto-electrician, in 1993, Captain Oboh also employed him as a gardener and gate-man. He was hired because Oboh had fired Abdullahi for gross misconduct. While Peter was working for her, he was residing in the boys’ quarter inside the compound.
However, when Peter travelled to his village in Markurdi, Oboh decided to re-employ Abdullahi pending the return of Peter. That mistake would prove most deadly. When Peter returned, Abdullahi moved swiftly and worked on his brain. He hinted Peter of his sinister agenda to kill Hadiza and co-opted Peter into the bloody mission. Abdullahi was reported to have said Oboh should be killed because: ‘…she get plenty money and property.’
Peter agreed to be part of the plot. In fact, he went a step further by arranging the other assassins who would take part in the operation. The meeting point for the killers was the spot outside the house where Abdullahi was selling his petty items. When Oboh arrived her residence that day, the plan was for the killers to skulk around in the dark and wait. Once they saw that she was comfortably inside, Abdullahi sneaked out of his post and flung the massive gates open and the other agents of death entered. Their plan was thorough and detailed. The assassins gained access to the house through the back kitchen door. As they entered, Hadiza was inside the kitchen, cooking.
Abdullahi, according to reports, pounced on the unsuspecting victim’s neck with a rope he had and despite Hadiza shouts, pleas and despite her struggles she was overpowered. As the pilot gave her last kicks in a desperate attempt for survival, the very person she hired to protect her, Abdullahi, increased the grip and tightened the noose around her neck cutting off blood supply to her brain in fact strangulating her while other assailants attacked and restrained her.The bitter struggle went on for a few minutes, and she was left lifeless. The assailants did not stop there. They took her corpse to the septic tank (locally referred to as the ‘soak away’), where they dumped her body. They then made for the bags of cement and fully cemented the tank.
With Hadiza’s body vaulted away inside the septic tank, they moved to the next stage of their plans: they embarked on a proper looting of her house. They carted every valuable thing in her residence, from her gold jewels to her expensive wears to the hard currencies, they cleared everything.
Her car was turned it into a taxi and even Peter abandoned the boys’ quarters to start living in the main building formerly occupied by the deceased pilot. So each time a visitor or friend came to check on Hadiza, Peter and the rest would answer saying:‘Madam don travel and we no know when she go return.’
Disappointed, the guests would turn back thinking Hadiza must have travelled or was on her busy flight schedules again.
However, nemesis caught up with them as in the house next to Oboh’s was a policeman on duty who noticed very strange movements in and out the premises of the late captain. The policeman approached the residence, asked of Hadiza and as usual, they said the same thing: Madam no dey house.
THE SUSPICION AND INVESTIGATIONS
But the policeman did not buy the story. Most likely acting on a tip-off, the residence was suddenly swarmed by police officers and security agents. Peter and others were arrested and bundled to the Ikoyi Police Station. Abdullahi had vanished so it was only Peter and others who were in police custody. Interestingly enough, when the police arrested them, no one knew Oboh was dead and buried in a pit of waste.
They were arrested for stealing and unlawful removal of property which formed the basis of their investigation. Peter told the police that Hadiza had travelled overseas and they believed him. There was no way to get the captain as there was no mobile phones in 1998.
In May 1998, about three months after she was killed, the Nigerian Police was still appealing to the public to assist with information to locate the prime suspects connected to Hadiza’s murder.
When the police arrived her home, the pot of soup she was making was still on the cooker, all dried up. The airconditioners were dead and on the floor of her kitchen were still visible the stains of her blood. The rope used in strangulating her was found between the kitchen and her sitting room which was now empty, with every valuable item looted. The only thing that was left in her sitting room at that time was her enlarged photograph, and it was covered by dust and cobwebs. The septic tank was still open, with its gaping hole and the half-used bag of cement was still there. The police gave an explanation that they did not move or touch any of the items at the scene because they still needed them for their investigations and for the prosecution of the suspects. You know, it was almost three months after. All the compound premises, right to the gate was already taken over by weeds and gone were the days of her well-manicured lawns. At that time, Mr. Paddy Ogon, an ASP, said:
‘…the public still needs to do more because Abdullahi lives in their midst. The image of the police is at stake. This is one of the celebrated cases the Nigeria Police is handling in recent times. Let me assure you that all hands are on deck to track down the remaining suspects, most especially Abdullahi…the police must follow the case to the end and make sure the killers of Oboh are brought to book.’
When he was asked on what the police was doing to nab Abdullahi, he said:
‘We cannot disclose that, but let me assure the public that the police would soon get Abdullahi. I can assure you, it is a matter of days and months. ’
Abdullahi was named as the person suspected to have masterminded and orchestrated the whole thing. He was later nabbed after an intensive manhunt.
As the case dragged on, it assumed a bigger dimension as no one knew of Hadiza’s precise whereabouts or heard from her. More questions were asked by her relatives and colleagues and pressure piled on the police as the case had already gained public attention and Nigerians were curious to know exactly what happened. Angered by the snail speed of the investigation, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, who was the Commissioner of Police, called for the case file, studied it and forwarded it to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba. An exasperated Tsav told journalists at a media briefing that the case had gone beyond theft and it was incumbent on the police to establish the whereabouts of Miss Oboh.
Once the SCID took over the case, the pace changed. On various occasions, the crack team of detectives led Samuel Okaula, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (later promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police as at December 2012) visited her residence. On one of their visits, Okaula was eagle-eyed enough to notice that the septic tank had a fresh coat of cement. He called the attention of others to the fresh layer of cement and the half-used bag of cement that was lying in the vicinity. Okaula’s instincts went on an overdrive: he became very suspicious. Okaula and his men returned to Panti with speed to further interrogate Peter.
The following day, the SCID team was back at Oboh’s house. Okaula ordered his operatives to open the septic tank. What they saw shocked them beyond disbelief and left an entire nation speechless. Immediately they opened up a section of the septic tank, what confronted them was the body of S/FO Oboh – decomposed. The next sad phase was the recovery of her corpse.
Back at the base in Panti, the SCID team were very sure they had Peter, Abdullahi, Itoro Akpan (he was Oboh’s driver) and one Denise Osama (received the stolen goods and property of the late pilot) in their custody. Peter finally confessed and in his confessional statement, he said:
‘When I hear madam dey shout and plead with dem not to kill her, I cry but I no follow kill her. ‘
On June 1, 1998, the four suspects were arraigned at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lagos, for conspiracy, armed robbery and murder. While the police were awaiting advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), it was learnt that the High Court ordered the release of two of the accused on bail with two sureties, who were alleged to have given fictitious names and addresses to the court.
The Ministry of Justice, however, later advised that the suspects be re-arraigned for conspiracy, armed robbery and murder. Sadly, efforts to re-arrest the suspects proved abortive because they had bolted away. Their sureties had also used fictitious names and addresses to process the court bail.