For 57-year-old Olushola John Joshua, an assistant superintendent of police, December 31 2016 is one tragic date that has continued to haunt him till date.
It was a day that changed the course of his life and twisted his fate from that of an able-bodied police officer to one now at the verge of going completely blind.
According to Mr. Joshua, he was a patrol commander attached to the Ajao Estate Police Station in Lagos until that fateful December morning when he got a distress call from a popular firm in the area, saying that hoodlums have invaded the company.
Mr. Joshua said on getting to the scene, he encountered a riotous mob of about 500 persons. He said when the mob sighted the police officers, they started throwing dangerous bottles of chemical at them.
As Joshua led his men to take cover, one of the canned chemicals thrown by the mob, landed and burst on his head, he recalled.
He told the reporter: “Time was about 4 am on that fateful day. That morning, while on patrol, I received a distress call from that particular company (names withheld by us.) I learned that there was a problem at their factory, and they needed some policemen to come to their rescue. They told us that some hoodlums had broken into their warehouse and were looting their goods and company property.
After their call, my divisional police officer (DPO) also called me to inquire if I had received the distress call and I affirmed that I had. And as the patrol commander, I headed to the place with my men. We were four in number. As we approached the entrance to the premises, we flashed our lights and saw hundreds of people exiting the company premises. They were probably about 500 people, all carrying cartons of goods. I sensed that this could be workers having issues with their employers and not hoodlums like they informed us earlier. So I ordered my men to take a position and then moved to the entrance.
“I announced our presence and told everyone not to move. But that seemed to get the mob more enraged. So as I tried to enter the gate, they started throwing all sorts of objects at me and my men. They dropped their cartons and started hurling canned substances at us. I thought they were throwing their products at us. I didn’t know it was caustic soda (alkaline). One of the cans hit me on the head and exploded. It melted my beret and streamed down my face into my eyes, my mouth, tongue, and ears. I felt excruciating pain all over my face. I wanted to move back but fell on the ground. Then I heard voices in the crowd shouting ‘collect his rifle!’ ‘One of the policemen has fallen to the ground, let’s rush and collect his rifle!’ At that point, I tried to save and defend myself. I grab my rifle, cocked it and fired, aiming the ground. Then I heard them running away.”
After the crowd ran away, Joshua said the pain on his face and body persisted. “I was rushed to a private clinic situated in Ajao. The medical personnel attempted to treat me but backed away when they examined my eyes and saw that they couldn’t handle the extent of injuries inflicted on me. The doctors said the damage done to my eyes was too severe for them to manage.
“So I was then moved to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where they started treatment. However, they warned me that my two eyes would get destroyed if the liquid alkaline substance came in contact into my eyeballs. And that my eyes would be condemned permanently if that happens. The information frightened me, so I started crying. I then heard the voices of my DPO and a top manager of the company. They saw me crying and consoled me. They further assured that they would make sure I didn’t go blind.”
But according to Joshua, since that promise was made almost three years ago, nothing much has been done by both his employers- the NPF, and the company whose distress call he rushed to answer. Joshua, a widower and father of five children, lamented over his long list of unfulfilled promises. He called on the commissioner of police, Zubairu Muazu to come to his aid.
“I nursed some hope that help would come quickly, but almost three years since the promises, nothing tangible has been done to save my eyes. But I’m deeply saddened whenever I review my situation. I have been abandoned by both the people I went to fight for, and by my employers at the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). I was in LASUTH for eight days till the day the medics told me they could not manage my eyes anymore. I was then referred to the Eye Foundation at Ikeja GRA. But I couldn’t afford their billings. I kept paying so much for consultancy and buying expensive eye drops. I spent all my saving and resorted to borrowing money to sustain the treatment until I became heavily indebted. Yet my eyes weren’t getting any better.
“On August 9, 2017, they sent the bill for the surgery to me. I was told the operation would cost me N2.5 million. I showed the bill to my bosses at the station, but since then nothing has been heard from anyone. I felt that even if the company failed to assist me, the NPF would come to my aid. But I’ve been left on my own ever since. The doctors strongly advised on the urgent need to get my eyes operated on. Time is running out fast on me. I expected my colleagues plus the senior staff to help me. Because in the police community, when tragedies happen to any of us, we police officers raise money within ourselves and try to help out. Right from the time I was a constable, I’ve always contributed to assist my colleagues that experienced tragedies and heavy challenges. But I feel so bad that I’ve been left to fight alone. I’ve been abandoned to suffer and go blind.
“I’ve been appealing to both the police and the public to come to my aid. Various Lagos CPs have come with promises to assist me but nothing was done to redeem their promises. My eyes are going bad, I’ve lost the right one, and the left eye is in a critical state. That is why I’m now pleading for help to save my sight. I heard that our current CP- Muazu is interested in my case. That is why I’m appealing to him to help and save me from going blind.”