Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
If tears could bring back the dead, the policemen that lost their lives in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, would have come back to life.
Unfortunately, the grief and continuous lamentations by the families, friends, associates and colleagues of the slain officers can do absolutely nothing to change their sad fate.
Commissioner of Police in the state, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, confirmed that five policemen were killed during the protest. According to the names that were released, three of the policemen were inspectors, while the fourth and fifth were a sergeant and a corporal, respectively.
It was gathered that some of the policemen that were gruesomely murdered had never stood on the road to carry out any official function, as one of them was said to be an exhibit keeper and another a computer operator.
The three late inspectors were from Ojoo Divisional Police Headquarters, Ibadan. The station was razed and 12 vehicles on its premises were also burnt completely on Wednesday October 21. Suspects detained in the station as well as arms and ammunition were also allegedly carted away from the police facility. The other police stations that were burnt by hoodlums were Alakia-Adelubi, Egbeda, Monatan and Kobolese Outpost, Akobo and Iseyin.
But the sergeant and corporal were attached to the ‘B’ Operations Department at the headquarters of Oyo State Police Command, Eleyele, Ibadan, and they were killed on Tuesday, October 20.
The names of the three slain inspectors were given as Peter Abegunde, James Akanmu and Alidu Yusuff, whose remains were reportedly taken to Kogi State for burial. The other two murdered policemen were Sergeant Ajibola Adegoke, 37, and Corporal Rotimi Oladele, who were lynched and burnt at Abayomi, Iwo Road, Ibadan.
This reporter visited the families of three of the slain policemen and discovered that the sorrow within their families over the irreplaceable losses could be literally cut with a knife. They left behind wives, children as well as parents.
The father of Sergeant Ajibola Adegoke, who said the family did not want publicity and insisted that his picture and that of his wife should not be used, managed to speak with the reporter briefly. He said: “From the information I collected, this my boy was never a member of SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad). He was in Operations. I know what he used to do; he used to come to Gbagi, and from there to Bodija, and to Imalefalafia in Oke-Ado, and these were the three beats that I know my son always visited.
“On the fateful day, he went to Gbagi with two other colleagues, and when they were going back, one okada rider ran into their vehicle.”
The people around the scene reportedly raised the alarm that the policemen had killed the commercial motorcyclist. When the mob wanted to attack them, Ajibola and his colleagues in the vehicle sped off. But some hoodlums pursued them and when the policemen got to Iwo Road Underbridge, they abandoned their vehicle and took to their heels. The vehicle was burnt and one of the policemen, simply identified as Inspector Ojo, escaped, while Ajibola and Oladele were unlucky.
But they were said to be in mufti for safety reasons, and they also rode in an unmarked vehicle, until the motorcycle rider reportedly gave them a scratch. Unverified reports said the motorcyclist did not die, contrary to the narrative that went viral after the incident.
Ajibola’s father, however, promised to take care of the three kids that his son left behind: “As I am standing, my mother was a stark illiterate and the same thing with my father. I was able to survive in life. I thank God for where I am today. My son was married with three kids and God will help me take care of them.”
Corporal Rotimi Oladele was 38 years at the time he was killed in the Abayomi area of Iwo Road. He left behind a three-year-old boy and another baby that was 16 days old on the day he was killed. His widow, a fashion designer, said during an encounter: “Nigerians should, please, assist me because I don’t have anybody. I am an orphan. I rely only on my husband. He made many promises to me. He promised to get a shop for me next year. But my husband was not allowed to wait and fulfill the promises. He was gruesomely murdered. I have two kids for him; the first child is three years, while my second child was 16 days old on the day my husband was killed.
“My husband would always call me whenever he was in the office. If the battery of his phone had been drained, he would find whatever means to call me. I was expecting his call, even till 9pm. I was worried and I could not also reach him on phone. People first told me that he was involved in an accident and he lost his two legs. I did not know anything. Immediately I stepped out of the house, I saw many people standing on the road. I never knew how they brought me to Bodija. But my husband’s younger brother told me that my husband was dead.
“When he was leaving for work that day, he said ‘Mummy Ephraim, I am off to work.’ I begged him not to go because of the #EndSARS protests. But I had peace of mind because he worked in the office.”
One of the three inspectors murdered at Ojoo, Peter Abegunde, 42, who was said to be an exhibit keeper, left behind four children, and a wife, Sikirat Peter-Abegunde, who is also a sergeant in the Nigeria Police Force.
The widow recounted that: “On Tuesday, October 20, 2020, my husband left home for work. He was serving in Ojoo Division. He was Inspector Peter Abegunde. Since then, he has not returned from work. Somebody called me that they burnt down the station. So, I went there and I did not meet anybody there. I have been moving around, looking for him. I went to the state headquarters at Eleyele, they told me that they did not see my husband.
“The following day, which was October 21, I went there and I saw somebody that was burnt. But we could not even recognize the person. They said he was attacked and he was burnt, but I have not seen even the corpse up till now. Other colleagues of his that escaped were wounded and their families have seen them. I have not seen my own up till today. He was 42 years old. We have five children, but one is late, remaining four. Our first twins are 14 years old. The second are also twins, and they are 12 years old but we lost one of them. Our last child is nine years old. We got married in 2005.
“My husband was enlisted into the Nigeria Police in 2002. But the DPO told me that we lost him, that he was attacked by hoodlums. They killed him and burnt him. He was a pastor and a good man. Even the people that were there said it should not have been him. He would go to work and to the church. He served God. God knows the best. He hailed from Ekiti State.
“I want the government to assist me with the education of our children because we are suffering. We don’t have anywhere to go. He was the one catering for us. Since then, I have been here with my parents. My parents have been taking care of me and my children. We need assistance for the education of the children.”
The first Abegunde twins also described their late father as a kind and easygoing person, who would never look for trouble. They said they knew that their mother could not take care of everything about them. One of them said: “But I know God is there and He will provide for us. But we need justice.”
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, during his recent visit to the Commissioner of Police Enwonwu, commiserated with the police command over the loss some of its gallant officers, promising that provision would be made for the families of the slain policemen in the N1 billion package that his administration had set aside for compensation for victims of police brutality and injustice as well as a micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) scheme for youths. The package includes an initial deposit of N500 million for MSMEs and another N500 million as compensation to victims of police brutality and injustice.
The governor also promised that his administration would rebuild all the vandalised police stations in the state.
“I want to reassure the good people of Oyo State that all criminal elements that engaged in wanton destruction of lives and property will be dealt with. I can give you that assurance because killing, arson, destruction of means of livelihood and other criminal acts are not part of us. They are not the things that we stand for as a people.
“Yes, I supported the protest and I did not have any regret for supporting the protest.”
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, who decried the reported acts of burning policemen alive and eating their flesh with alcohol, appealed to members of the public to give credible information to the police towards recovering firearms such as AK-47 rifles that were carted away by hoodlums who attacked police stations during the protest. He warned that such guns should not be in the wrong hands, adding that they were prohibited arms that would never be licensed for the use of an individual.
“Even, as a Commissioner of Police, if I must use it, I must sign for it and when I am done, I will still sign that I am done with it and it will be returned to the armoury. If you know the amount of havoc AK-47 can wreak, you will not hesitate to give out those holding it illegally,” the police boss noted.