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Supreme price: The untold story of policemen killed during #EndSARS protest

While still begging for their lives to be spared, they were set ablaze on a heap of tyres. The more the fire raged, their voices…

Sergeant Adegoke Ajibola and Corporal Rotimi Oladele ran as fast as their legs could carry them, sought a hiding place, pleaded for their lives as the mob closed in on them.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears. They were dragged, beaten, hit with sticks, knives and any available objects in sight.

While still begging for their lives to be spared, they were set ablaze on a heap of tyres. The more the fire raged, their voices were lost in the flames, never to be heard again.

The two men burnt to death on Iwo Road in the ancient town of Ibadan, the third largest city in Nigeria, were not criminals. No, their only crime was that they were crime fighters.

A viral video posted by one of the hoodlums showed the despicable scene as the policemen were set ablaze on a heap of used tyres and their bodies shared.

The two were among the not less than 22 policemen, seven soldiers and 59 civilians killed in October 2020 during the #EndsARS protest, according to the toll announced by President Muhammadu Buhari during an emergency meeting with former Nigerian leaders.

The #EndSARS was a decentralised social movement and a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The slogan calls for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian police with a long record of abuses.

The #EndSARS protest, which lasted two weeks, was peaceful until it was hijacked by hoodlums, who looted public and private-owned warehouses, burnt police stations and destroyed property.

Ajibola and Oladele were not members of the now disbanded SARS, according to official record and findings by our correspondents.

In fact, they were not the regular policemen  seen on the road as findings revealed that they were attached to the ‘B’ Operations Department of the Oyo State police command.

Their area of engagement was usually being on special duty as requested by different companies and organisations, and as approved by the command.

They were on their way to such engagement at a fish depot at the Wema Bank area of Gbagi in Ibadan when they met their untimely death.

Coincidentally, the 42-year-old Ajibola and his colleague, Oladele, had three children each. Oladele’s wife, Feranmi, had just put to bed their third child, 16 days before the unfortunate incident.

Feranmi, who is an orphan, just as her late husband, said the news of his death shattered her world.

Tears welled up her eyes as she recounted the horrifying experience of six months ago. Sensing danger as the #EndSARS protest had turned violent in some areas, Feranmi had pleaded with Oladele to stay at home.

The plea was ignored by her husband, who had said he couldn’t abdicate his responsibilities as a law enforcement agent. Undeterred, Feranmi called Oladele’s elder sister to intervene, but the late police officer refused all treaties to make him stay at home. After much persuasion, he promised that he would stay in the office.

“His sister also asked me to leave him since he said he was not going to the field but the office. Four hours after he left the house, I felt that something bad had happened to me. I could not eat. I wasn’t okay because I was expecting him to call me, but there was nothing of such.

‘I called him but his phone was not going through. I then went to meet one of our neighbours to inform her about it, but she said maybe my husband’s phone was off because he could not have the time to charge it.  Shortly after that, I was outside my room and I heard people saying two policemen were killed in town.

“Not too long, I saw people moving their properties out of the barracks without telling me anything. They were moving with the fear of possible attack on barracks. In fact, they were watching me because many of them knew my husband had been killed.

“When it was around 8pm when people had left the barracks, I was still waiting for my husband to return home. I just decided to visit the Eleyele headquarters when my sisters came into our house. She asked me to follow her to her house.

“I was hearing people saying my husband had an accident. That was the last moment I remember. The following day, the oldest man in my family came to meet me and explained that my husband had died. For more than five days, I didn’t know anything again,” she said. Her words were stopped intermittently as she made unsuccessful attempts to control her tears

“They told us that we just had to accept our fate and move on. He has three children. My last child was 16 days when the incident happened. He was attacked in Iwo Road.

“He was among the two victims who were roasted in Abayomi. I heard those hoodlums ate the flesh of my husband,” she added, with fear and shock written all over her.

Tokede Bolanle-Ajibola, the wife of Sergeant Ajibola, described the gruesome murder of her husband as disheartening and disgusting.

Reluctantly recalling the incident of October 22, Tokede wondered how the standard of humanity had depreciated in the society, warranting human beings to kill and eat the flesh of another.

“I was at work on October 22 when one of his colleagues called me to inform me that my husband had been killed. He was attached to the police headquarters in Eleyele.

“According to the news I heard, he was roasted after being lynched by hoodlums. I felt sad when I heard about it. I didn’t get myself, but I had accepted my fate. I heard that some hoodlums took part of his flesh away while some were eating it. So disheartening and disgusting,’’ she lamented.

Many commentators, including the government and police authorities agreed that there were justifiable reasons for the #EndSARS protests owing to the excesses of officers in the unit, but in the heat of it, many ‘innocent’ and dedicated officers were killed.

“He was a good and caring man. Since his demise, I have missed everything about him. It is very painful because he has parents – both of them are here in Ibadan.

“My husband was committed to his job. He was always assigned for special assignments in other states, and he diligently carried out his tasks until he was killed,” added Mrs Bolanle-Ajibola.

On her part, Mrs Oladele described her husband as a man who was good to motorists and respected others in the discharge of his duties.

“My husband was a good man to me. He gave me whatever I needed without much stress. He was nice to motorists. In fact, many of them used to visit and give me money. He respected people. Many people have said so many good things about him.

“He loved his children and never joked with their wellbeing. His death was horrible. Those who witnessed the incident said he was seriously beaten before he died and they later set him on fire,’’ she said, dropping her head in her hands.

Three other officers were gruesomely murdered during the protest in Oyo State. They were killed when hoodlums overwhelmed the police at Ojoo, Ibadan.

It was learnt that only the body of a 37-year-old James Akanmu was seen where it was allegedly dumped by the attackers.

The relatives of Alidu Yusuf Wada and Peter Agunbiade are still searching for the remains of their breadwinners.

Beauty James Akanmu told our correspondent that she spoke with her husband a few minutes before he was killed.

“I called him when I heard that the protesters were in Ojoo. He told me that it had happened (they were under attack) and I asked him to leave the station immediately. He said he was looking for how to leave. As we were talking, his phone went off and that was the last conversation we had.

“Since that day till now, I have not heard from him again. We called his phone number but it was not going through. Three days later, I was called to check the stream where they were dumped. We saw it, but they had taken everything on his body. It was only his identity card and uniform that we saw on his body. They had destroyed almost all the parts of his body.

‘We were able to recover the remaining part of his body and deposited it in a morgue,” she narrated as tears gushed out from her eyes. It was uncontrollable as she became mute for some minutes before eulogising the late crime detector.

“He was the only one caring for the family. I do not have anything to do. He could do any legitimate business to care for the family, especially his children. His three children are all boys. His parents are dead.

“The last statement I had with him was to find a way out of the station, which he said he would try. Before he was killed, nobody knew he was a police officer in the neighbourhood. He never bragged,’’ she added.


‘I’m still searching for my husband’

Alidu Esther is still searching for the body of her husband, Alidu Yusuf Wada, more than 205 days after he was killed during the attack on the Ojoo police station.

Mrs Alidu couldn’t hide her pain as she recalled the last moment of her late husband, who she described as the only hope in her life.

Mr Wada had left home that fateful day with his usual promise to buy gifts for his four children on his way home. Sadly, he never returned to that house.

She was informed of her husband’s death a day after the sad event. And since then, the search for his remains has not yielded positive results.

“My husband was a good man. It is very rare to get such kind-hearted husband. He was a calm person and usually took care of his family.  He was the only family I had. He was my father and mother. He cared for me with everything he had. He left four children for me to care for now.

“As we speak, we have not been able to recover his body. I heard he was about to climb the building of the station to escape when they killed him. When government officials got to the station to evacuate his body, they didn’t see it.

“His parents are still alive; they are in Kogi State. I heard he was stripped naked, hit with sharp objects, dragged on the road in front of their office before he died. I heard he struggled with them but you know, since it was a mob attack, it was hard to survive,’’ she said, with tearful eyes.

A 42-year-old Inspector Peter Agunbiade, an exhibit keeper at the record department of the station, was also killed. The father of four was burnt to death, according to his wife; yet nobody has been able to locate his remains.

Mrs Agunbiade said, “It was October 20. He told me he was going to work as the DPO asked all of them to report to the office. So, before 6am, he had left the house. I and the children prayed for him because we were aware of the situation of things in the country at that time.

“He called me around 12pm, saying the station close to the highway at Ojoo had been razed by the EndsARS protesters. I asked about his wellbeing and he said all of them had moved to the DPO’s office for safety.”

Despite the palpable fear and tension that hovered around him, the thought of his children and their wellbeing was topmost on the mind of the inspector.

He called his wife back, pleading that she should make all efforts to beat the protest, which had taken over all the major areas in the state and pick the children from school immediately.

The wife did that, but that was their last conversation as she couldn’t reach her husband again. Sensing danger, Mrs Agunbiade ran to the station the following day, but the building was in total ruin. It had been razed by the protesters. It was deserted and there was nobody to talk to.

She ran to the police headquarters at Eleyele, but nobody was able to give her a satisfactory answer about the whereabouts of her darling husband as she was asked to contact the DPO of where her husband worked.

“Later, when I went to the headquarters at Eleyele, I met the DPO and he explained to me that those mobs were more than them. He told me that my husband was beaten and burnt alive.

“He was a good man. He was in charge of record keeping. He was a recorder. He wasn’t a troublesome man. He was an exhibit keeper. He was a graduate and hated violence. He was not always in uniform. People hardly saw him outside. His parents are still alive.

“He was a caring husband to me and caring father to his children. Even if it is the last money in his hand he would drop it for us.

“He was very calm. Many people in our neighbourhood did not know him until he died. His plan was to ensure that his children become graduates, but now, he is no more to fulfill his dreams. We have not been able to recover his remains,’’ she narrated.

A 14-year-old twin of the late inspector said they were yet to recover from the shock of losing their father at a tender age. They have two other younger siblings

Kehinde Agunbiade, who spoke on behalf of the children said, “When we heard about it we felt broken and shattered. We believe our dad was innocent, but the Bible says when the wicked are facing justice, the innocent will also be part of it.

“My father was gentle, kind and always found a way to help people. He was supposed to go for the graduation of his master’s degree before the incident happened.”

Saved by his good deeds

If not for his good deeds, a Kogi State-born Yakubu Enemali would have been killed after hoodlums attacked the Ojoo division of the Nigeria Police Force, Ibadan during the protest, noted the woman who rescued him.

Three policemen were killed in the attack, but Enemali was rescued by a Good Samaritan.

Daily Trust gathered that the father of nine was rescued by a woman whom he had helped in the past.

The Good Samaritan, who refused to mention her name, for security purposes, confirmed to Daily Trust Saturday that Enemali was axed in the head and shot in his leg when she met him in a pool of blood.

Before the arrival of Enemali’s wife, the woman had taken the victim to a nearby clinic for first aid.

Seven months after he was rescued, Enemali is yet to utter a word. He is in pain and can’t talk. He usually misbehaves, having sleepless nights and hardly comprehends issues.

At the moment, though Enemali can recognise people, he cannot talk, which necessitated the need to undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain test at the Chemical Pathology Department of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan to determine the type of surgery to be carried out.

He was diagnosed with seizures at the MOP and SOP Department of the hospital.

According to a medical expert, Dr Mustapha Ajakaiye, seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause changes in behaviour, movements or feelings and levels of consciousness.

Our correspondent who visited his residential apartment at the Idi-Omo area, Akinyele Local Government Area of Ibadan, observed that nothing was left in their sitting room.

Enemali’s wife, Tosin, who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday, said all their properties had been sold to take care of the health of her husband and the children.

“I am a fashion designer. I sold all my sewing machines to care for him because I never knew it would take this long before he would regain consciousness. Aside from my machines, I also sold all the chairs, television, home theatre and other valuables in our house. As you can see, we don’t have anything again.

“I have invited somebody to buy the bed frame in the front of the house for me to be able to buy drugs for him. I decided to stay with him because my husband is a good man. I know he is alive today because of his good deeds.

“I didn’t know the woman who rescued him when hoodlums attacked him, but God saw his heart and made an escape route for him,” she said.

Cheated, forgotten and neglected

Six months after the #EndSARS protest which claimed the lives of many policemen, including six officers attached to the Lagos State command, their widows still await promises made to them by both the government and the Nigeria Police Force.

Since they lost their breadwinners, the plight of these widows can be described as a desperate struggle for survival as they are now left with no other choice but to fend for their children, a task which some of them were not exposed to during the lifetime of their husbands.

A good number of them are presently weighed down by these burdens that were suddenly placed on them by the cold hand of death.

Not able to cope, some of them have relocated to their villages.

The Lagos State Government was said to have given the widows N10million each, but that good gesture had also pitched them against the relatives of their late husbands.

Our correspondent reliably learnt from some of the widows that the money given to them by the state government was taken away from them by the relatives of their husbands.

They alleged that only a fraction of the total amount was later handed over to them by the heads of their respective families.

The widows of the deceased policemen said the former Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu gave them N200,000 each while his wife gave them N100,000 each.

Those who spoke to our correspondent said they were eagerly expecting the scholarship the Police Force promised their children.

The officers who were killed in Lagos during the protest were Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Edward Yard, attached to Denton station; Inspector Ayodeji Erinfolami, attached to the defunct anti kidnapping unit; Inspector Aderibigbe Adegbenro, attached to Meiran division; Sergeant Bejide Abiodun, attacked to DOPS SHQ; Ehibor Samson and one other attached to Orile division.

Daily Trust Saturday had earlier reported that a total of 16 police stations were set ablaze during the unrest in the state. They included Orile, Amukoko, Layeni, Old Area J command, Ajah, Elemoro, New Area J command, Elemoro, Igando, Ebute-Ero, Ajah and its barracks and Ilasamaja police stations.

Others were Makinde and its barracks, Ikotun, Isokoko, Pen-Cinema, Onipanu, Alade police stations etc.

About 13 police formations were vandalised, amongst which were Ojo and Ojodu stations. The following police posts were burnt: Cele, Ilogbo-Elerin, Shibiri, defunct anti-cultism office, Gbagada, defunct SARS office, Onilekere, Makoko, Daleko, Ashamu, Makinyo, Amuwo-Odofin, defunct anti-kidnapping office, Surulere and old SARS office, Ajegunle.

A total of 38 policemen from various formations/locations within the state sustained varying degrees of injury.

Back to the village

Hannaty Yard told our correspondent that she and her five children had relocated to their village. She said she was still trying to put together the bits and pieces of her life after the demise of her husband.

“I have relocated to my village in Niger State, along with my children. This is to afford me the opportunity to take care of my children properly.

“I will be in Lagos soon because my son, Jayjay, will be writing the Junior Secondary School (JSS) final examination, after which I will come back to the village to continue with my life.

“Life has not been easy for me since the death of my husband. I am now responsible for things he was doing.

“If the government could fulfill the promise of scholarship they made to us, life would be better. But right now, things have not been easy,’’ she lamented.

The 42-year-old widow, however, declined to say anything about the death of her husband, insisting that discussing it would bring back the memories she is still struggling to forget.

For Olamide Erinfolami, life has not been fair to her and her children.

The 39-year-old woman, who was thrown into early widowhood, said she lost the good part of her life to the cold hand of death. She has also relocated to her village in Ekiti State. She took their children along.

She  said, “I am now into petty trading in front of our house in Ado-Ekiti. Whatever I get I use for my children. I am still expecting the scholarship the Nigeria Police Force promised us. It will remove the huge financial burden placed on me by the death of my husband.’’

The woes of widows of the slain policemen in Oyo State are compounded as there is no support yet from the state government. They felt abandoned and rejected after their breadwinners paid the supreme price in the course of duties.

Beauty Akanmu urged the government at all levels to offer scholarships to their children.

“My husband served the Nigeria police during his lifetime; therefore, something should be done for his children. As we are here now, we don’t have a house, no work and no family to care for us. How do we survive? We really need help from the government,” she said.

Alidu Esther, who was not working before her husband died, pleaded for the support of the government, noting that it has been difficult to feed and care for the children of the deceased officers. The oldest was 12 years old while the youngest was one year and six months when the officer was killed

Mrs Agunbiade said the family was faced with many challenges, recalling that during the last festive period in December, there was nobody to support them.

“We are appealing to the government to assist our children. Our children’s education is more important to us,” she said.

Her eldest children, 14-year-old Taiwo and Kehinde Agunbiade, appealed to the government at all levels to give them scholarships.

This story was funded by Daily Trust Foundation, with support from MacArthur Foundation.

Abiodun Alade & Eugene Agha, Lagos, Jeremiah Oke, Ibadan, Idowu Isamotu, Abuja

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