Ayoola Ayedungbe was the first child of his family. His three other siblings saw him as their role model and he promised not to let them down as soon as things became rosy for him.
The 29-year-old man graduated from a bible school months earlier and was on the verge of being an evangelist before he was killed by the police during #EndSARS protest violence at Berger, Lagos State.
Days before Ayoola’s death, his mother, a prophetess, had a dream about the incident.
“I called him on Oct. 19, 2020, that I had a bad dream about him and he should not join the #EndSARS protest. I told him to ensure he prays for safety in all his endeavours and I also prayed for him, hoping that no evil would happen to my son,” the mother, who simply identified herself as Mummy Ayoola, said.
“I never knew that the call was going to be my last conversation with my son. I felt all that happened to him was destiny because I prayed.”
Ayoola’s mother told HumAngle she did not know her son was a victim of the violence following the protests until 18 days after.
“We were told that they placed his pictures on vehicles in Berger with a tag of ‘missing identity #EndSARS victim’. The banner read that those who know Ayoola’s family should tell us to come to male ward at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja.”
“We rushed to LASUTH the following day and all I saw was my son in severe pain. The man who rescued him told us he was shot by the police 18 days earlier at Berger during violent attacks between officers and hoodlums.”
Ayoola gave up two days after his mother got to the hospital. A year after the incident, the family lives in sorrow.
“I cry every time I remember my son or any time I see boys in his age bracket. He was my eldest son and, most times, his younger ones console me. Ayoola wanted to be a pastor but his life was cut short. I have accepted my faith. If not for the man who rescued him, we wouldn’t be going to the judicial panel again because it does not appear like we will get justice.”
The #EndSARS protests were triggered by grievances arising from years of harassment and rights violations by operatives of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
For weeks in Oct. 2020, many Nigerian youths took to the streets to protest extra-judicial killings and other irregularities by the police unit. The protests led to the disbandment of the police tactical squad.
In a desperate move to quell the demonstrations, which had continued despite the proscription of SARS, soldiers were deployed to the epicentre of the nationwide protests at Lekki Tollgate on Oct. 20, 2020.
They shot at protesters and killed a yet-to-be ascertained number. The demonstration was later hijacked by hoodlums who looted stores, homes, warehouses, as well as private and public properties in different parts of the country.
Family of deceased live in penury
Otu Charles, a 64-year-old Ghanian was killed on Oct. 22, 2020. He was returning from work at Sawmill, along Agege, Lagos, when he was shot dead.
Earlier that day, facilities belonging to the Nigeria Police in Ojodu Berger area of the state, were razed during an attack by a group of hoodlums.
By evening, the destruction had led to a bloody confrontation between some police officers and hoodlums in the area. Immediately Otu alighted at Akinyode bus-stop, he heard sporadic gunshots.
“A stray bullet hit him when he was running for safety. This was after he ran into a fight between police and rioters around 7 p.m. Since then, his wife and three children have been living in pain,” Wiafe Charles, the deceased’s brother, told HumAngle.
Two months after Otu died, his family members were ejected from their residence in Akinyode following failure to meet up with their rent.
“It has not been easy for the family. After the incident, there was no money to pay for their rent at Akinyode and, two months later, they were evicted from the house. They are now squatting with a family-friend in Yaba.”
Wiafe is interested in helping the widow and children of his late brother but his earnings from his Baba Ijebu (lottery) business is not enough for him to feed even his own family.
Remembrance of sorrow
Isiaka Jimoh, a 20-year-old electrician, went to a site at the Under G area of Ogbomoso, Oyo State, on Oct. 10, 2020. Despite yielding to his mother’s advice not to take part in the #EndSARS protest at his community, he still did not return home alive.
The deceased’s mother, Ramota Jimoh, believed her son died because “he was predestined to die by gunshot.”
“I saw him a day before he died and warned him against joining the protest due to high-handedness by police operatives,” she said.
“Unfortunately, his father called me around noon on Saturday that I should meet him at Bowen University Teaching Hospital. He told me Isiaka was shot by police who were trying to disperse #EndSARS protesters.”
Speaking on life after Isiaka’s death, Ramota said, “I cannot forget Isiaka because he promised to take me to Mecca for pilgrimage and buy houses for me. Even with the little he was making before his death, he was already making thrift for me to start a petty business.”
Isiaka’s father, Raji Jimoh, told HumAngle police officers attached to the Owode Division were responsible for the death of his son. He said late Isiaka had two bullet wounds on his yellow shorts and his sweatshirt was recoloured by blood from blue to red. The protesters who witnessed the ugly incident took him to hospital but he didn’t survive it.
“He went to LAUTECH area to work but he could not even carry out his assignment there due to #EndSARS,” the deceased’s father remembered. “He was observing the protest from a distance but unfortunately got shot with two stray bullets at the junction.”
Raji told HumAngle, despite promises by top government officials, the family was yet to receive any support one year after the incident.
“Many people came to pay us condolence visits including top government officials like Governor Seyi Makinde, Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, and Senator Fatai Buhari. They all promised to assist us but we didn’t get feedback. They set up a judicial panel and we were going to the panel before it ended in July. Till now, nothing has been heard. I cry every time I remember because Isiaka was so kind to me despite being the last-born.”
Widows of slain police officers want help
Like civilians, many police officers also lost their lives. One of them was Inspector Peter Abegunde. The police officer got a call from his Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in the early hours of Oct. 20, 2020. As a hard-working officer, he left his house around 6 a.m. for Ojo Police Station in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Aside from his police job, Peter was a final-year student of Conflict Studies at the University of Ibadan. “If not for death, he would have been a graduate by now,” his widow, Abiodun Abegunde, told HumAngle.
“He called me around 1 p.m. that the protest was getting bloody and instructed me to go pick the children up at school. By the time I was going to call him around 2 p.m., his phone was off.”
Abiodun was worried when her husband did not return home later that night. She could not sleep after she heard the news of the attack on Ojo police station by hoodlums who had already hijacked the protest.
“I left the house very early the next day to be sure my husband was not among those that got attacked. On getting to the police station, I saw the place burnt. I went to the police headquarters where I met many police wives that came to look for their husbands.
“The police spokesperson told us to go back home that our husbands will return soon, arguing that most of them ran for their lives when hoodlums attacked.”
By Oct. 22, Abiodun returned to the police headquarters alongside her husband’s family members. Unfortunately, they were briefed that Peter was one of the officers burnt when hoodlums set Ojoo police station ablaze.
The children told HumAngle that they missed their father. The widow said the federal government paid the family N500,000 as compensation a month after the incident but, since then, nothing has been heard about payment of the late inspector’s gratuity.
“I have four children to take care of and ensuring that they remain in school has been difficult. We later got money from Adebayo Adelabu and there’s a man that gives us N25,000 monthly for upkeep. I added all the money to my foodstuff business so that I can keep the children in school.”
Asked if she would allow any of her children to join the police force, she simply replied: “My husband was killed, his body was not found and here we are struggling for survival. I can’t allow any child.”
‘We are dying of hunger’
Like his colleague, Inspector Yusuf Alidu also left home very early on Oct. 20 to the same police station and never returned home. Few minutes before his death, the police officer called his wife, Esther Alidu, assuring her that he would look for ways to escape from the station.
“Immediately I heard about an attack on police officers by hoodlums, I called his phone and he responded that his station was under attack. He confirmed that he had removed his uniform but was still struggling to come out of the police station.”
Hours later, Esther called her husband’s phone again but it was switched off. She waited all day thinking her husband would return but that never happened.
“I told policemen close to him the next day that I was looking for my husband. One of the officers asked me to get in contact with his family members and I became suspicious. I asked them where he was but was told he was burnt in the police station by #EndSARS hoodlums.”
Esther, who got married to Yusuf in 2016, has two children. The oldest is a five-year-old girl and the second born is a two-year-old boy. The trio have since faced a lot of hardship.
“Life has been tough for me and my children because my husband did not allow me to work when he was alive. My children didn’t go to school throughout last week. I had to beg the school’s principal. I now eat once a day. I beg for garri and soup on a daily basis.”
Unlike the Abegunde family, the Alidus are yet to get any compensation from the federal government. “I have made efforts to get his gratuity by submitting all necessary requirements but it is yet to yield any result. The neighbours have tried but they also have their family members to cater for,” Esther said.
Gunshot survivors live in pain
Theophilus Ivwrogbo used to work as a truck driver at China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in Apapa, Lagos. Following the announcement of curfew by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Oct. 20, 2020, all staff of the company were asked to go home.
As he lives in Epe, Theophilus would have to pass through the Lekki tollgate before getting to his house. He got to the tollgate at a time when soldiers already took over the event of the day. Like many others, Theophilus woke up at the hospital the next day after sustaining a gunshot injury.
“I got to the tollgate around 7 p.m. and that was when the soldiers just arrived, shooting sporadically at protesters. Since I couldn’t proceed, I started running backwards and the bullet hit my leg. A guy was trying to help me but he was shot dead.”
“I woke up the next day at Reddington Hospital. The place was filled with victims of gunshots and I stayed there till the next day. Some guys paid for x-rays and all other expenses before I was transferred to another hospital at VGC.”
Theophilus told HumAngle that those taken to Grandville Medical Centre at VGC were treated without payment. “The hospital did so in solidarity with the youth’s agitation for a better Nigeria,” he explained.
“They operated my leg and helped join my broken bones with iron. I left the place after some days but was told to return in six weeks for a major operation on the leg.”
Life became terrible for Theophilus and his wife who started taking care of his two children with stipends from her “puff-puff” business. After six weeks, he was told that the surgery would cost him over N2 million.
“I told them I don’t have money so they put POP. I later met the Take It Back movement in January. They donated N200,000 to go the traditional way. My kids have stopped going to school because there is no money. I feed on donations from friends.”
Another victim, Nicholas Anthony, was one of those picking litters at the tollgate throughout the period of the demonstration. He told HumAngle that he has on several occasions been a victim of police brutality as a driver in Lagos.
In solidarity with other youths, he abandoned his job to join the protests. Unfortunately, Nicholas was hit by a bullet on his chest when soldiers stormed the tollgate.
“It was God that saved me. The bullet that hit my chest shot out at my back. I woke up at Grandville Hospital where I was first diagnosed before I was taken to LASUTH. They fixed a pipe in my tummy to bring out the bad blood. Months after I was discharged, I cannot work. My wife and two children have been moved to Benue State while I remain in Lagos to attend the judicial panel. Even to attend the panel, I often beg for money.”
More terrible experiences
“All I am working towards now is to get my life going and try to figure out something I can do to earn some income and help home. I can’t stand or walk on my feet for long and I’ve lived on painkillers and calcium. The shattered bone was not replaced and it needs to grow itself,” Edwin Augustine, a 25-year-old gunshot victim, told HumAngle.
He had just finished his National Diploma programme in Office Technology and Management at Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic Unwana in Ebonyi State. He came to Lagos in search of placement for his Industrial Training (IT) but that became difficult due to #EndSARS protests rocking Nigeria’s commercial capital. After two days at Berger, his friends encouraged him to join the protests at Lekki tollgate, a development that did not end well.
“I was shot by soldiers on my left thigh on Oct. 20 and I woke up the next day at LASUTH. While I survived, my friend was shot dead. I was in LASUTH for two weeks but the bullet was not removed. The doctors said I would lose my leg if operated on.”
He told HumAngle that his father sold his only farm and house to ensure he stayed alive. Sadly, the bullet was not removed until April 9.
“I travelled to Ebonyi to operate the leg in April. This was after my father sold his properties and after some NGOs gave me N500,000. The leg is still giving issues especially when the weather is cold. I was at the judicial panel with a bullet for more than six months. My colleagues are in HND 1 now but I cannot join them,” he lamented.
Unlike others, Emma Chibroma was shot on his thigh at Berger on Oct. 28, 2020, during a confrontation between police and rioters. He told HumAngle he “was in pain for six weeks without getting assistance from anybody.”
“I went to Alausa to submit pictures but nothing came out of it. It was a terrible year for me. I don’t want to speak further on my bitter experience,” he added.
After scrapping SARS, the federal government promised extensive police reforms, which many Nigerians believed it has yet to fulfil.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with governors of the 36 states of the federation as well as some top federal government officials as members, also passed a resolution for the setting up of the panels of enquiry and recommended that state governments should set aside about N200 million as compensation for victims.
The panels were set up in 29 states and Abuja to investigate complaints regarding police brutality, recommend sanctions against erring officers, and award compensations to complainants in deserving situations to assuage their pains.
HumAngle understands that no fewer than 2,791 petitions have been submitted to the panels in the 29 states and Abuja.
Meanwhile, nine states did not set up the panel: Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Borno, and Yobe.
Osinbajo said in August through a statement issued by his media aide, Laolu Akande, that the panels of enquiry had finished their assignments in 28 states.
While the panels’ activities have been successful in some cases, victims are yet to get justice in most. HumAngle reported how 12 victims of police brutality were awarded a total of N68.3 million in six months by the Lagos State Judicial Panel.
In another development, Abayomi Adebayo, whose mother was killed by bullets from SARS operatives, was awarded N10 million as compensation and the family of the late Kolade Johnson who was killed by Nigeria police officers in 2019 also got N10 million compensation.
This is, however, not the case with many other panels. For instance, the Abuja Panel was abruptly suspended. A recent report by Premium Times explained how the federal government’s failure to fund the panel in Nigeria’s capital dashed the hopes of over 300 victims and relatives of victims of police brutality.
Some lawyers, however, believe that the judicial panel would only douse the situation in the country but not reform the police system. One of them, Festus Ogun, said in an earlier interview with HumAngle that “the panels appear to be a calculated strategy by the authorities to give false hope for victims of police gangsterism.”
“My position hinges on the fact that the law places the implementation of the findings of the panel at the discretion of the President who himself has a stained human rights record,” he argued.
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