Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Memories of that black Thursday has refused to fade, despite the passage of time. About a year and a half ago, precisely on April 5, 2018, Nigerians were treated to a bizarre and heart-shattering armed robbery incident in Offa, one of the sprawling urban centers in Kwara State. For more than one hour, the city was held siege and painted red with blood; police stations were attacked while banks were raided with professional ease.
Offa indeed, had a cruel date with fate on that day. The city of the brave and fearless was brought to its knees in minutes count. In the end, the high profile criminals looted the town and killed 33 innocent persons, including police officers.
But were all these not bad enough? Yes they were. However, recent happenings indicated that the impact of that black Thursday still haunts some homes. Some of the families of the victims are still in tears, not just for the loss and the emptiness occasioned by the loss of their beloved ones, but for the unfulfilled promises of a lot of people, who had pledged to be their strength and shelter in the journey ahead, but have left them to their ill fate.
Danjuma Yusuf Atta, an Inspector of Police, was one of those felled by the robbers’ bullets on that fateful day. Stepping into his not-too-expansive residence in Ajase-Ipo, Irepodun Local Government, memory looms like a full moon in the middle of the sky. His memory highlighted the pains within. He left behind, Comfort, a broken- heart as his widow and six children, the youngest of who is just a year and three months old.
Comfort told Daily Sun that it has not been rosy for the family ever since his demise. She lamented the emotional and material losses by the sudden death of their breadwinner. Before his death, Comfort, alongside her husband had produced and processed Fufu (cassava flour), which she sold to neighbors around their home. Now that he is gone, the task has become overbearing:
“We are seriously facing lots of problems since my husband died. It is very difficult to eat, to provide the basic needs for my children. I need a good job to raise the children my husband left behind and to attend to other family matters.
“I have a National Diploma certificate, I am ready to work if I see one. No one could assist because they don’t have the means. My late husband was the breadwinner. Since he died, the entire family is in serious financial problems.”
A native of Igalamela Local Government Area of Kogi State, and a father of six children, the deceased was one of those brave officers killed by the robbers. He was transferred to Offa Divisional Police Station in 2005 as a Corporal and grew to the rank of an Inspector of Police
She was at an evening church service when one of her pastors informed her of the tragic incident. He also informed her that he had been trying her husband’s GSM number, but the number had not been available. Upon hearing this, she made several efforts to reach her husband on phone but was not successful:
“I immediately called my husband’s number to find out what was the problem at Offa, but his GSM number was not available, though I thought it was a network problem. I also called some of his colleagues at Offa Divisional Police Station, but none of their lines was available.
“I later called a friend to ask her of what happened in Offa, but she said nothing happened in Offa. She even claimed that she had just discussed with her relative residing in Offa.”
Mrs. Danjuma left the church and proceeded to her residence along Ajase-Ipo- Offa Road. On her way home, a friend of the family who was on a motorbike approached and inquired from her: “Mrs. Danjuma, did you hear of the incident that just happened in Offa? I replied no.
“The man advised that I call my husband, who was supposed to be in Offa to confirm. I replied that I had tried his number, but it was not available.”
At this point, she joined a commercial vehicle going to Offa. On her arrival at Offa, she noticed that shops, petrol filling stations and some business buildings had closed too early. She realized that vehicles and motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, were also very few on the road.
Her heart pounded as she walked down to the Offa Divisional Police Station where her late husband was serving: “I saw the lifeless body of my husband in the pool of his blood along side the corpses of some other police officers and civilians right inside the police station.
“Immediately, I collapsed. That was just all I could remember. I was eight months pregnant when the incident happened. But I thank God the baby from the pregnancy is alive today.” She said the police are still processing her husband’s benefits. She added that one of her church members who, is also the Chief Medical Director of Oluseyi Hospital, Ajase-Ipo, Dr. Samuel Ayorinde, has been very helpful.
She said wife of the Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Elizabeth Kayode Egbetokun, during her empowerment programme for police widows gave them some support. The Police Cooperative Society, of which her husband was member, extended support to her and her children. Some of her husband’s colleagues from Offa Police Station had also brought them food items. But for these few cases, many others have parted with them, she said.
Ayorinde appealed to the Nigeria Police to hasten the process of the late officer’s benefits so that his family could access his entitlements and use it to do the necessary things. He also called on the Federal Government to provide scholarships for the children of Danjuma who died in active service, while appealing to well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of the widow and her children.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ajayi Okasanmi, said the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, takes very seriously issues of workers and benefits of late police officers in the country: “There are insurance benefits for all police officers in the event of the death.
“In addition, the IGP has set aside another set of benefits depending on the rank of the deceased, which is to be handed to the family pending the release of the late officer’s pension and gratuity. The benefits have to go through some processes, but definitely families of the late officers would be paid because the IGP has concern for both the living and the dead, regardless of their ranks.”