Murdered at 39, the grim tale of Captain Hadiza Lantana Oboh, Nigeria’s first and only female pilot of the defunct Nigeria Airways is still hard to take by the nation. To make matters worse, her assailants when eventually captured and arraigned before court, secured bail and vanished never to be seen or heard from again.
Oboh was unmarried and lived alone in her Ikoyi residence. As early as 1984, she is reported to have been a Flight Officer (F/O) aboard a Boeing 737 of the Nigeria Airways and by 1989, was a respected pilot through to the 1990s.
Given that she was a pioneer in the field, she was a source of pride for women associations in Nigeria and Africa. Even for Nigeria, home to Nollywood, the third largest film industry in the world and estimated to rake in $50 billion annually, scrip writers couldn’t have dreamed up Oboh’s murder and subsequent events which followed.
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On February 8, 1998, Captain Oboh had arrived from a flight and headed for her 40A Bourdillion Road home around 8.00 pm. Unlike what pertained during other visits home, this time, domestic servants of hers had allegedly hatched a plot to murder her so they can ransack her home.
They had seen her expensive jewellery, foreign currencies, electronic gadgets and general good life and had become envious so planned to dispose her and enjoy from where they hadn’t sowed.
Captain Oboh had retained the services of two male domestic servants namely Abdullahi, who was the gateman cum security officer and one other.
On the fateful night, when she strode into her apartment, she entered the kitchen to fix herself a meal. Unknown to her, “Abdullahi had sneaked out and opened the gate for the three other conspirators who entered the expansive compound. One of the brains behind the plot was Peter Iduwu Eche from Benue State. Trained as an auto-electrician, in 1993, Captain Hadiza Oboh also employed him as a gardener and gateman. 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.”
It so happened that Peter Eche travelled to his village in Makurdi and so Oboh decided to re-employ Abdullah pending the return of Peter. The decision would prove to be ill fated.
Upon Eche’s return, Abdullahi co-opted him to the plot to kill Ms. Oboh. It was Eche who then put in arrangements for the four assassins. With Captain Oboh at home, Abdullahi opened the main gate for the assassins and together accessed the room in which she was via the rear kitchen door.
“Abdullahi with a rope went straight to the neck of Nigeria’s only female captain. She was overpowered. He strengthened his grip and tightened the rope around her neck cutting off blood supply to her brain.”
Having killed the captain, the assailants deposited her remains in the septic tank on the compound. And to cover their tracks, poured mortar in a bid to cement the tank.
The murderers then looted the rooms, Eche then moved from his boys’ quarter base into the main building. When an associate, friend or family relation of Captain Oboh came by the residence and asked of her whereabouts, they craftily submitted “Madam don travel and we no know when she go return.”
It was not unusual for Oboh to embark on long trips so the visitors were not alarmed and returned. However, a policeman on duty in the house next to Oboh’s, suspected foul play when he observed new pattern movement in the late captain’s house.
When he passed by and enquired to see the landlady, he was given the same excuse but dissatisfied, he brought police officers to the house and arrested Peter Eche and his cohorts for questioning at the Ikoyi Police Station. Abdullahi was not around when the arrest was effected.
Initially, they were arrested for stealing and unlawful removal of property. But when the police inspected the home, they found “the pot of soup she was making was still on the cooker, all dried up. The air -conditioners 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.”
After an intensive manhunt by the Nigerian security forces, Abdullahi was nabbed and it emerged he was mastermind of the plot. But the authorities had still not found Hadiza Oboh, a situation which now alarmed relatives and colleagues. The case had now drawn public attention with Nigerians demanding answers.
The State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) took over the case. Detectives led by Samuel Okaula, an Assistant Superintendent of Police retuned to Oboh’s household.
“Okaula noticed 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. The following day, the SCID team opened the septic tank and were confronted with the decomposed body of Captain Oboh.”
Captain Oboh’s remains were recovered with Peter Eche confessing finally. “The SCID team rounded up Peter, Abdullahi, Itoro Akpan (he was Oboh’s driver) and one Denise Osama (received the stolen goods and property of the late pilot).”
On June 1, 1998, all the four suspects were arraigned at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Lagos for conspiracy, armed robbery and murder.
While many were saddened by the demise of one of Nigeria’s illustrious citizens, the belief that justice was about to be served comforted them. However, that was not be.
“As the police team was waiting for further advice and direction from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), they got the most shocking news of their lives: the High Court had ordered the release of two of the accused on bail with two sureties.” It turned out the sureties who processed the bail used fake names and addresses.
The Ministry of Justice ordered that the suspects be re-arrested and charged again but it never happened. The suspects had bolted.
That’s how a brilliant lady of the Nigerian soil, Captain Oboh, was brutally murdered by her domestic servants and her nation’s legal system let her down terribly.