The terrible death of the famous Nigerian journalist, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine, Dele Giwa reads more like a page from an espionage screenplay than a real-life event as today, Saturday, October 19, makes it 33 years, the icon kicked the bucket.
Information revealed that on October 19, 1986, the muckraking Giwa died after opening a parcel bomb at his residence in the Lagos state capital, Ikeja.
The assassination occurred two days after he had been interviewed by State Security Service (SSS) officials.
Below is the full information:
In an off-the-record interview with airport journalists, Lt. Col. A.K Togun, the Deputy Director of the State Security Service SSS had claimed that on 9 October Dele Giwa and Alex Ibru had organised a media parley for media executives and the newly created SSS.
Togun claimed that it was at this meeting that the SSS and the media executives reached a secret censorship agreement. Under this agreement, the media was to report any story with potential to embarrass the government to the SSS before they tried to publish same.
Giwa had been invited by the SSS to their headquarters for the first time on 19 September 1986 after writing an article in which he described the newly introduced Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) as “God’s experiment” and suggested that if SFEM failed, the people would will stone their leaders in the streets.
Giwa was interviewed and his statement taken by two SSS operatives. He was later taken to meet with Lt Col Togun, the deputy director of the agency in his office. Togun is reported to have told Giwa that he found nothing offensive in the story as Giwa had also stated in the same story that he was hopeful that Babangida seemed determined to make SFEM work.
According to Giwa’s neighbour and colleague, Ray Ekpu, on 16 October 1986, Giwa had been questioned over the telephone by Col Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) over an allegation that Dele had been heard speaking to some people about arms importation.
SSS officials reportedly summoned Giwa to their headquarters again on 16 October 1986, and on the next day Ekpu accompanied him to the SSS headquarters for the interview. Lt. Col Togun accused Giwa and Newswatch of planning to write the “other side” of the story on Ebitu Ukiwe who was removed as Chief of the General staff, to General Babangida.
The magazine had published a cover story titled, “Power Games: Ukiwe loses out”, in its edition of 20 October which was on sale on 13 October 1986.
Togun also accused Giwa of planning to import arms into the country and of claiming to have promised that Newswatch would employ the suspended police public relations officer Alozie Ogugbuaja.
Ogugbuaja claims that on 16 October 1986, a bomb was defused by the police bomb squad at his official residence in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.
Ogugbuaja also said that he suspected that his phone might have been bugged because Giwa and Ray Ekpu in one of their telephone conversations with him had indeed promised to employ him in Newswatch if the police dismissed him. Ray Ekpu also believed that their houses and phones may have been bugged because he did discuss employing Ogugbuaja in Newswatch with dele Giwa over the phone only; he said that he found two bugging devices in the cover of two books inside his study. Lt. Col. Togun while questioning Giwa had claimed that he wasn’t aware of the fact that Akilu had already questioned Giwa over the gun running allegations the day before, this was after Giwa had brought it to his attention.
Giwa reported the interrogations to his friend Prince Tony Momoh who was then the Minister of Communications, Giwa had told Momoh that he feared for his life because of the weight of the accusations levelled against him.
According to Ekpu, Momoh “dismissed it as a joke and said the security men just wanted to rattle him”; Momoh promised to look into the matter. On 18 October Giwa also spoke to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, the Chief of General Staff who said he was familiar with the matter and also promised to look into it.
Later on 18 October, a day before the bombing, a staff of the DMI had phoned Giwa’s house and asked for his office phone number from his wife Funmi. This same person from the DMI later called back to say he couldn’t reach Giwa at the office and then put Col Akilu on the line.
Ekpu alleges that Akilu asked Giwa’s wife for driving directions to the house and when she asked him why he needed the directions he explained that he wanted to stop by the house on his way to Kano and he wasn’t very familiar with Ikeja, he also offered that the President’s ADC had something for Giwa, probably an invitation. According to Ekpu this didn’t come as a surprise because Giwa had received advance copies of some of the President’s speeches in the past through Akilu.
On 19 October, Giwa phoned Akilu to ask why he had been calling his house the previous day, Akilu was alleged to have explained that he only wanted to tell Giwa that the matter had been resolved.
Ekpu said Giwa replied Akilu that it wasn’t over and that he had already informed his lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi to follow up on the matter. Akilu then told Giwa that there was no need for that, that it wasn’t a matter for lawyers and that he should consider the matter resolved.
About 40 minutes after the telephone conversation with Akilu, a package was delivered to Giwa’s guard (the accounts of which vehicle was used to deliver the package vary). When Giwa received the package, he was with Kayode Soyinka the London Bureau Chief of Newswatch.
The package exploded, mortally wounded Giwa and temporarily deafening Soyinka, who had excused himself to the rest room shortly before Giwa was supposed to have attempted opening the package. Giwa was rushed to the hospital where he eventually died from his wounds.