• Two months after lawyer was killed in his house, doubts heighten as police vacillate on investigation
By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
There are over a thousand ways to die, one of which definitely is the body’s loss of blood. This was, however, the last thing on Olakunle Alex Fadipe’s mind on Thursday, July 3, 2014, the day he breathed his last after he received an unwelcome guest, Oluwaseun Kadri Oladapo, late at night in his home at Adeleke Odunuga street, Ifako Ijaiye.
It was a very dark cold evening and the clocks were striking twenty-three hours. Fadipe, a lawyer and visiting member of The Guardian editorial board, had returned from his chamber an hour earlier, his hands full with his briefcase containing his laptop and some sensitive files, plus a stack of the day’s dailies, which included his famous delight, The Guardian.
As expected, there was electricity downtime that kept many parts of Harmony Estate, Ifako Ijaiye in pitch darkness. Without being told, his first son ran downstairs to switch on the generating set. Fadipe looked obviously tired but there was still one task left to be done before the day would be finally over; that would wait until after dinner.
He was in the middle of reflecting on the day’s activities and his schedule of duty for the next day when Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company (IKEDC) restored power. Again, his son had to make a quick dash downstairs to switch off the generating set and reconnect to the national grid.
Inside, Fadipe stared absent-mindedly at the television screen when he was suddenly jolted first by a snapping sound, then a combination of rushing wind and cries arising from sheer terror. In a space of a few short minutes, he witnessed the most unlikely robbery attack he has ever heard of.
It was a lone robber, whose only instrument of terror was a knife and with it, he barked instructions to the household of five, his word became law. Everything he asked for was provided; money, jewelries, other valuables and in fact a cup of water.
It was therefore against the run of action for the suspected assassin to have faced Alex Fadipe and stab him. The last thing he remembered was the unknown assailant rushing towards him brandishing a knife after overpowering his son.
For a split second, he was lifted off his feet and suspended in midair. Then gravity took over. Adrenaline surged through his body and his grip tightened on the assailant, vigorously trying to inflict his own damage and dispossess the intruder of his weapon. He was buoyed on by the rallying support of his family members.
But unknown to him, his body had received a fatal plunge from the assailant’s knife. By this time, it was too late for Fadipe to defend his territory. He felt weak, teeth clenched together, barely breathing, and all he could do was to desperately hang on. He fell on his back in a pool, smelt his own blood and slowly but in acute pain, the end came.
As a lawyer, Fadipe, 50, was one of the best. Well educated and very well read, his depth of knowledge was impressive. Not for him the grandiloquence for its own sake that masks the emptiness of many lawyers’ arguments nor the pedestrian submissions that is the signature of the unlearned. Fadipe was deep.
A purist, especially in matters of the law, injustice, for him, began with obfuscation of issues. Hence he was always clear in his submissions and insisted on clarity from others.
He was a brilliant lawyer and a very articulate one for that matter. To say he loved the law would be an understatement, for it was not just a job but also a calling for him. He believed in it as the only tool with which injustice can be fought and a truly thriving nation built.
He was capable of holding his own in the midst of the best in the profession, not the least because he had had the best of breeding and education. After a degree from the University of Lagos, where he was President of the Law Society and his call to the Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School where he was the Secretary General of the Students Council, Fadipe received his practical training under the late irrepressible Gani Fawehinmi and went on to become the head of the chambers of the late TOS Benson.
He once served as a Federal Commissioner in the National Human Rights Commission where he did his best to improve the lots of fellow Nigerians and also make the nation’s prisons as well as other places of detention truly reformatory.
Fadipe loved his country and wrote passionately about the ills afflicting Nigeria. He was total in his commitment to the nation’s unity, unwavering in his faith that Nigeria could be great and diligent at every opportunity to do his own bit.
He was eternally denied the honour of being the head of his family and father to his three children, as well as the pleasure of reading his last op-ed piece published in The Guardian of the next day, Friday July 4, titled: A Justice Delivery System So Unfriendly.
Without any premonition, it was the last epistle he shared with the world. How prophetic; how could he have known he was predicting his own fate. With 60 days gone since that gruesome murder, justice is yet to be served with the initial step of a police arraignment for the suspect.
The opening paragraph of the final epistle reads: “There are two major reasons among several others why our judicial system requires a declaration of emergency. First is the length of time an average case takes in court before judgment. This is a notorious fact that requires no expatiation. No case, however, simple or trivial takes less than two years to run its full course. The simplest of all cases, shorn of technicalities and excessive legalism by their nature are landlord and tenant matters, which are principally in the domain of the magistrates’ court except in few cases.”
This subject matter would immediately strike a chord among millions of Lagosians, where in most instances, the search for a roof over one’s head could be akin to looking for a pin in a haystack. Fadipe continued: “Because our laws frown at self-help, every landlord who desires to recover possession from his tenant for whatever reason is expected to initiate ejection proceedings at the magistrates’ court.
“In some cases, the need to recover possession may be traceable to tenant’s default to pay his rent, which may have accrued sometimes for upward of six months and in some cases for well over a year. Landlord’s effort to regain possession gets frustrated by the duration of proceedings, which can easily be described as adding salt to injury.
“A man who is owed arrears of rent is now made to spend as much as over a year in court to recover a single room apartment, which the defaulting tenant sees as a respite considering that for as long as the suit lasts, he is immune from payment of rent. At the end of it all, he may walk away with huge sums of money in terms of rent arrears.”
Painfully for the family, while preparation was in top gear to commute his body to mother earth, Barrister Fadipe’s mother-in-law, who witnessed the incident, passed away on July 16. She died as a result of the shock and trauma of her son-in-law’s gruesome killing. She will be buried in October, according to the family.
Presently, it is difficult to speculate or impute motives into the incident. No task is more arduous than attempting to answer the question ‘Why?’ As a lawyer of repute, searchlight will naturally be beamed on the risk factor of his vocation.
A source at the Fadipe chamber confirmed to The Guardian that there is no case they are currently handling or recently concluded that could generate so much hate to the extent of someone wanting to take Fadipe’s life.
“But you can never tell with humans. You can never know the intention of man. Even if the suspect confesses to assassination, it could even be because of one trivial matter that doesn’t make sense. Even when we were handling difficult cases, nothing happened,” the source informed.
Contrary to speculations that Fadipe was on the trail of a highly sensitive matter at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the chamber noted that they presently do not have any case with the EFCC. “We have concluded the ones we were handling.”
Attempts to glean information on the concluded cases with the EFCC met a brick wall at the chamber and from the commission’s head office in Abuja. The Guardian’s check at the legal department of the EFCC turned up no record of the late Fadipe.
However, while the public awaits police official inquest into Fadipe’s death two months after, The Guardian’s investigations leads to a possible assassination of the human rights activist.
When he was arrested by the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) before being handed over to the police, he said he resides in Abeokuta and that he was a wanderer; making a living as a carpenter and only came to Lagos to look for money, but in a chat with The Guardian, he confessed to living in Fagba, at Iju Ishaga area of Lagos, which is not far from Fadipe’s office and residence.
It was further revealed that prior before the time he committed the crime, he lived behind the late lawyer’s office, so he knows Lawyer Fadipe very well. He was easily recognizable to people living around the chamber as soon as he was arrested.
According to the OPC, he squatted with another friend, named Bayo at Olufemi Ajayi street, directly behind the chamber. That Bayo is now at large.
Furthermore, the motorcycle, which the suspect used that night, is still where it was parked two months after. In Harmony Estate, motorcycles are not allowed to ply at night, it is only tricycles, popularly known as Keke Napep that operates in the estate.
The suspect parked the bike he used not too far from the entrance to the estate. “As we speak, the bike is still there. It is curious that the suspect claimed to be wandering, but considering the distance of Fadipe’s house to the estate gate, it pulls wool over his claim,” one of the deceased’s relative informed.
“Our house is not the best in the estate, our fence is one of the highest and the gate is always locked, so he could not have sauntered in if he wasn’t on a mission. He knows his target and he got what he wanted.
“All details point to assassination. It might come in form of a robbery but it is not robbery. His name is Kadri and not Seun. He gave Seun to the police. His landlady confirmed Kadri has been a troublemaker. Behind our office where he has been squatting, they know him as Agba.
“It is funny how the police will base its investigations on the statements of the suspect, who has given three different names, has different identities and claimed to have lived in three different places within a short space of time. The conclusion of such investigation cannot be trusted.”
Fadipe’s family and lawyers at his chamber have reasons to doubt police genuineness in resolving the murder case, considering its legendary reputation of pussyfooting around even in high profile and unresolved murder cases.
Ogunbayo Ayanlola Ohu, popularly known as Bayo Ohu, was murdered in cold blood on September 20, 2009 by unknown gunmen. Five assailants were said to have attacked him, stealing his laptop and mobile phone.
Ohu, until his death, worked as the Assistant News Editor of The Guardian. Till date, Ohu’s killers are yet to be found by the Nigerian Police.
Another unresolved gruesome killing in the history of Lagos is that of Chief Funsho Williams, a gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Williams was killed on July 27, 2006 at his Dolphin Estate home in Ikoyi.
Six accused persons charged with murder were recently set free by the Lagos High Court for lack of evidence.
In the Fadipe case, the matter is yet to be filed at any court two months after.
Lawyers at his chamber, two weeks ago, met with the state’s Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Ade Ipaye, to intimate him on latest development.
He promised to call for the case file as soon as the police make its submission, to enable his office look into it and proffer their legal advice on the matter.
A highly placed police officer at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in Panti, Yaba, in one breath, explained away police’s inability to arraign the suspect in court.
“Even if the guy confesses to assassination, the deed has been done, Fadipe has been killed and the result of the investigation cannot bring him back to life. At the moment, he is not fit for court. The case would be arraigned once he is declared fit by the police hospital in Falomo, where he is kept under watch.”
A clue police investigators would find useful is the fact that there had been a previous attempt on Fadipe’s life some years ago. Five armed robbers attacked him in the office and shot him on the leg but the bullet did not penetrate inside the bone.
During that incident, he was alone. Everybody had closed for the day, while he stayed back to do some work in the office. When they attempted several times to shoot him in the chest, the trigger couldn’t fire. They gunmen finally shot him in the leg out of frustration when their aim at his chest failed.
According to a source at the chamber, “we started thinking about that incident and it occurred to us that the guy that came alone that night came only with a knife. The person that sent him might have been aware of the previous attempt on his life and warned the suspect not to carry out the assignment with a gun because they must have assumed that Fadipe was protected by magical powers, known as juju.
“If he had not done his home work well, why would he attempt to take a human life relying only on a knife? You dare not take the risk of entering into someone’s house to hold them to ransom without a gun. He had done his work well thinking it is only Lawyer Fadipe, his wife, a relative and his two little kids that were at home, not knowing that the first son came back from campus on Sunday the week the incident occurred.
“Whenever the first son is around, you hardly see him because he rarely go out. The suspect never knew another male was at home, because when the first son went out to switch off the generating set, he actually assumed it was Lawyer Fadipe, which explains why he attempted to stab the young man on the neck. He was, however, lucky to be alive because it wasn’t a deep cut.”
Sadly, a few days before the incident, precisely June 26, another of Fadipe’s sons had a dream where his father was killed in an accident. There was never any premonition that the deceased would be murdered in his own house and before his children.
It has been 60 days of distraught for Mrs. Kemi Fadipe. What she witnessed on the night of July 3 would be so hard to erase, not even in her rare moments of pleasure going forward.
She has never grown weary of repeating herself to investigators and journalists that her husband’s killer was a professional killer, insisting that a thief would not stab her husband the way he was stabbed even after money and other valuable items the assailant demanded had been given to him.
What would only alleviate pains of the inconsolable loss is justice to avenge the death of the human rights activist.
“We don’t still know the mission of my husband’s killer up till now. What I want the government to do is to help me find out what the killer actually wanted, because we offered the money he demanded and we were about giving the laptop he asked for when he stabbed my husband to death. He is not a robber.
“I thought he was a robber, but when I saw the way he was stabbing my husband, I said it was only a professional killer that could act that way. He was even ready to kill anyone, who stops him from carrying out his mission. The way he was asking for things, he was too much in a hurry and he was not patient at all. He was asking for too many things at the same time. His mission was to come and kill.
“Although I did not have any premonition before his death, but my son had a dream that his father was killed in an accident on June 26. He saw his father in a pool of his blood. After he told us about this dream, my husband, who was supposed to travel on June 24 to return on June 26, decided not to make the journey that period because of what my son told him.
“I miss everything about my husband. I miss his comfort, his care. He was a good man and a good father. My only request is that government and the Nigeria Police should help us get justice so that my husband would not die in vain,” she said.
The first son of the late lawyer recounted how his father was killed: “I went outside to switch off the generator since the PHCN had restored power. Suddenly, someone held me with a knife; I over-powered him. Thinking there were many of them, I ran inside and shouted, ‘thief’ thief.’ My dad asked him to calm down and asked what he wanted. He said he wanted N500,000 with a laptop.
“My dad told him he did not have up to N500,000 at home, but he brought out some money and gave him. As my daddy tried to go downstairs to get the laptop, he hit my dad and stabbed him. All of us attacked him and tried to overpower him. Immediately, we called the members of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) at our main gate. When the OPC people arrived, they captured him and handed him over to the police.”
Sixty days after, the Fadipe chamber has moved on without him. One thing is certain, there would be no part of his will proscribe the chamber and winding down of his legacy like it happened to the reputed Gani Fawehinmi chambers.
Work has since resumed in August after a few weeks closure in July to mourn Alex. As usual, clients have been visiting the chamber even though there is no much activity because the courts are presently on vacation.
On the homefront, it has not been easy but the Fadipe clan is gradually adjusting to post-Alex Fadipe era. It is taking a lot of effort from the young man expected to step into his late father’s shoes, particularly since he witnessed first-hand his dad’s dying moments.
He saw it all, from the physical combat in their living room, turned battle ground all the way to the hospital theatre where a last ditch effort was made to resuscitate Alex.
Thankfully, he is coming out gradually; same for his mum, who in two weeks, almost got her life shattered with the loss, first of a heartthrob, and thirteen days later, forever missing the comfort of a dear mother to lean on.
Encounter with Fadipe’s killer at Police Hospital, Falomo
ODITA SUNDAY, The Guardian’s senior crime reporter caught up with Oluwaseun Kadri Oladapo, the killer of Alex Fadipe at the Police Hospital, where he is receiving treatment for wounds sustained at the scene of the murder
How are you doing now?
I am getting better, but I am still feeling pains seriously on my leg.
How did you find your way into the lawyer’s house?
When I arrived the estate that night, it was only their compound that had light, there was total blackout in other places. On that fateful day, I went to the man’s house, jumped the fence and found myself in the compound. The power generating set was on, so I waited patiently because I know that the Power Holding Company would soon restore power.
Immediately the light was restored, the man’s son came outside and I attacked him. He began to drag the knife with me, so he was injured in the process and I was also injured too. I entered into the house immediately and demanded for N500,000. The man said he has no such money but he offered me money in an envelope. It was his wife who gave me the money.
What do you want to do with the laptop you asked them to give you?
I requested for telephones and laptop, they gave me telephones but they said there are no laptops. I was about to leave when the man’s wife held my clothes. It was at that juncture everyone in the house descended on me and was shouting ‘don’t let him go! Don’t let him go!’ They hit my head with a glass cup, table stool and other objects, so I could not escape.
Why did you kill Fadipe?
I did not know whom I used the knife on and whom I did not use it on because I was struggling for survival to escape. The security people asked me if I was the only one, I said yes. I do this kind of things before but not always. I go into people’s compound and steal telephones and money. It was the knife I took from their kitchen that I used to do the killing. I was overpowered and the knife I came with got bent and it was taken from me. It was later in this hospital I was told that the man I killed is IG’s lawyer; it was then I realized I am in big trouble.
Where do you live?
I live at No 20 Oladitoun Street, Fagba, Lagos.
But you told the lawyer’s family members and the police that you came from Abeokuta?
I use to live with my sister in Abeokuta, but I don’t live there anymore. It was my condition that made me say I live in Abeokuta; I was in a confused state when they shot me.
What is your real name?
My name is Oluwaseun Kadri Oladapo
Are you married?
I am not married
Do you have parents?
My father is late but my mum and my other siblings live in Ondo State. I am a native of Ogun State but I was born and raised in Lagos.
What legitimate business are you into?
I am an aluminum window technician.
Why did you leave your business to face crime?
I traveled to South Africa in 2011 and I was sent back. I am 24 years old.
Tell us who sent you to kill him?
No one sent me to kill him, if anyone had sent me, I will reveal the person because the pain is too much for me. I did not want to kill him, I only came for money.
I hope you know that you killed an influential lawyer?
I never knew him very well; it was when I started recovering that I was told I killed the IG’s lawyer.
Why is it that it was Fadipe’s house in the whole of that estate you could enter?
That was the only place where there was light. All other houses did not put on their generator.
How do you feel now that you have killed someone?
I am really unhappy and I don’t know what to say.