Femi Falana, human rights advocate, has called on the federal government to reopen investigation into the disappearance of Bagauda Kaltho, a journalist.
Kaltho, a journalist with The News magazine at the time, was said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1996.
The journalist’s disappearance is steeped in conspiracy theories. There is the claim that he was killed in a bomb explosion at Dubar Hotel in Kaduna in 1995.
There is another claim that the journalist was killed during the military regime of Sani Abacha.
Recently, Mahdi Shehu, an activist, in an interview on ARISE TV, claimed he refused to take a parcel bomb given to him by Russel Hanks, identified as an American ex-envoy, at Hamdala Hotel in Kaduna, in 1995.
Shehu alleged that the envoy said he should take the parcel bomb to Durbar Hotel, Kaduna, adding that after he rejected the parcel, Kaltho came into the hotel room of the envoy and hours later, a bomb explosion occurred at the hotel.
The activist’s comments have ignited a fresh debate on the disappearance of Kaltho.
Joining the fray, Falana, in a statement, said the Oputa panel, set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate human rights abuses under the military, entertained the petition submitted by Kaltho’s family on the disappearance of the journalist.
The human rights lawyer said Shehu’s claim is totally different from the account of officials of the military regime during the Oputa panel.
“During the sittings of the Oputa Panel in Lagos and Abuja, some members of the official killer squad set up by the Sani Abacha junta, confessed that they killed some Nigerian citizens and attempted to kill others on the instructions of the military junta,” Falana said.
“They also admitted their involvement in the burning of houses and bombing attacks unleashed on opponents of that military rule. Throughout the proceedings of the Oputa Panel, the defenders of the Abacha murderous regime could not extricate themselves from the brutal killing of Dele Giwa and Bagauda Kaltho.
“However, at the sitting of the Oputa Panel in Kano in 2001, Mr. Zakari Biu claimed that Bagauda Kaltho was given the bomb that killed him by me and the management staff of TheNEWS, TEMPO and PMNEWS, namely Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi, Kunle Ajibade, and Babafemi Ojudu.
“I appeared at the Oputa Panel in Kano and subjected Biu to rigorous examination during which he admitted that he was fed with the wicked tissue of lies by the State Security Service concerning our involvement. You can see Falana vs Zakari Biu – Oputa Panel on YouTube.
“But the SSS refused to corroborate Biu’s testimony. It was all found to be a figment of Mr. Zakari Biu’s imagination. In its report the Oputa Panel had recommended that the case of disappearance of Bagauda Kaltho be reopened for investigation.
“Since the version of Mahdi Shehu on the disappearance of Bagauda Kaltho is totally different from the official account of the defunct military junta, the case ought to be reopened for full investigation.
“More so, that the then military administrator of Kaduna State, Colonel Jaffar Isa (rtd) mentioned by Mahdi Shehu has denied knowledge of the Arise Television story.”