By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Mary was seven months pregnant when she was informed of the sad news that her husband was dead. Her deceased husband, Inspector Felix Igbassan, a Nigeria Police personnel, was killed by suspected armed robbers while on special duty on the outskirts of Abuja in 2017. He died as a result of multiple bullets wounds sustained during a gun battle with armed robbers. Although it has been five years since the incident, Mary insists that she had survived on donations from concerned friends and family. She claimed that not even a kobo was given to her and her four kids by the authorities. Mary made this known at an event recently organised by a non-governmental organisation known Naija Police & U where selected families of slain policemen were given cash gifts.
Expressing her frustrations, Mary told Saturday Sun that she was frustrated into giving up all hope when she could not find most of the documents that the police authority demanded of her. “I have not collected a dime because I do not have all the documents needed. I was tired of the whole process that is why I did not follow it up again. I have not collected anything from the police or their pension department. Till date, I do not have an idea of how much we are expected to be paid. I simply left the matter to God.”
On how she had been surviving, Mary said that she was able to start up a business with the little money that friends and family raised for her and the children. “I want to specially thank the Nigeria Police for supporting us throughout the burial. My late husband was attached to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) when he passed on. The police, through the IRT, sponsored the burial and lot of persons who knew that he was a gallant officer came to our rescue. I was heavily pregnant and had no job then. It was sympathisers that raised money for us. It is part of the money that I used to open the business that is sustaining me and four of my kids. His boss in particular is our God on earth. May God bless that man for me. He has been helping us even after so many years.”
She pleaded with the relevant authorities to consider the sacrifices of her husband and grant his family his entitlements, no matter the amount. “I will be the happiest person on earth if they will consider that most of those documents cannot be found again. I was his legal wife and we had four children who are growing. It is not easy to be a single parent with four children. Nigerian Police should please help,” she pleaded.
Also at the event was the widow of late Inspector Sunday Samuel Fafoluyi who was gunned down in 2013 by armed robbers in Sango Ota area of Ogun state while answering a distress call from a resident in that area. He was hit on the chest and died before his colleagues could get him to the nearest hospital.
His wife, Oluwaseyi claimed that his family has yet to collect his entitlements from the pension office. “When it happened, he was working with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos. We were asked to apply and luckily after spending some money to facilitate the process, our family was given N1.6million as death benefits. That was what they called it. We also filled for his pension and till date we have not been able to get it. They kept demanding one document or the other.
“The process is hectic; I thank God for family because it would have been hell on earth. My only regret is not going to school. If I had been better educated, I would have empowered myself, and I will not be in this situation.”
Another woman in a similar precarious situation is Arike, wife of the late Inspector Lanre Sanusi who was killed by unknown gunmen in Delta. He was in Delta with his colleagues on the trail of suspected kidnappers.
His wife claimed that they were told that it might take up to seven years to process a dead policeman’s entitlements. “Since my husband died, we have not received any form of entitlements. My father in-law even tried to see how he could facilitate things but failed. I wish they can help us. My first child graduated from secondary school three years ago and is at home and there is no hope of furthering her education. I was told that the line-up of those who are yet to be settled is much and they depend on budget.”
Another beneficiary was the family of Inspector Bernard Odibo who was killed by suspected bandits along Kaduna -Abuja expressway in 2018. He was amongst those deployed to that axis to control the menace of kidnappers. Late Odibo and two others lost their lives while attempting to rescue a kidnapped traveller on that axis. His wife, Patience, while lamenting her frustrations, expressed gratitude for the gift by the organisation.
“I never knew that my husband would leave us so early. Because of the nature of his job, I was advised to stay at home and take care of our children since he was always on the move. We were blessed with four beautiful children and I had no strong house help.
“What saved us initially was his immediate boss then. They sponsored the burial before we finally received his gratuity two years later. I wish they would employ me into the Nigerian police, so that I can fend for my children. I have no skills and I am not from a rich family.”
Another recipient was the family of late Inspector Mark Ediale who was part of the team that arrested the suspected kidnap kingpin, Wadume in Taraba State. Wadume whose real names are Hamisu Bala was arrested over links to several kidnap cases in the state. Late Mark was killed during an ambush in the state in a bid to free Wadume from police detention. “We are still processing his entitlements and I believe we will get that soon. I miss my husband but I believe that God that took him at this time will give me all that I need to raise his son very well.”
As at press time Saturday Sun was not able to get a response from the office of Police Insurance, Force Headquarters and Police Pension Office all in Abuja. However, a senior officer at the Force Headquarters explained that the delay could be caused by backlogs of entitlements still being processed.
“The current IGP is passionate about the welfare of families of policemen – both dead and alive. He does not take such for granted because these slain policemen are the real heroes. The issue of documentation is important to avoid future legal issues. We have had cases in the past where several persons will appear claiming ownership. This is why all these documents must be provided. There are so many who received these entitlements in less than a year,” said the officer.