#SARSMustGo: Police Attack, Hunt Protesters In Oyo State
Over 10 unarmed protesters have been killed and several injured by police officers in the last five days of ongoing protests in Nigeria.
The protests are part of a series of campaigns calling on the government to end police brutality and rogue police unit Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The peaceful demonstrations by Nigerians have been met with brute force by police officers who have used live ammunition, water cannons and teargas to disperse crowds.
In Oyo State, protesters have been detained arbitrarily with some killed and injured.
On Saturday October 10, 2020, students and indigenous youths of Ogbomoso, a town in Oyo state, took to the streets as a sign of solidarity to the nationwide call to end SARS.
For them, it was necessary to end the brutality constantly meted out to them by the police unit.
It is not unpopular to hear stories of missing persons who resurface days later, thoroughly brutalized and ruffed up.
This is most times, only possible after they must have extorted the victim to the maximum extent. On some other times, only dead bodies are recovered.
“They always say they are in search of yahoo boys but they are always lying. They know the yahoo boys and they collect settlement from them.” A distraught male student of lautech who was present at the ground of protest said.
Most times, they patrol in commercial and private vehicles as a disguise to unsuspecting individuals.
The goal of the protestors is simple – they want to see the end of a police-unit-gone-rogue.
People who have not had an encounter with them say that they have friends or relatives who have been victims in the past.
On the day Jimoh Isiaq died by police bullet…
The protest took off by 8 a.m. with the first stop being the King, Soun’s Palace after which they zoomed to demonstrate at the town’s major police station, Owode.
“We moved a long way from NNPC to as far down to Owode with no single violence, only for the Police to pull a trigger on the people.” AK Ajayi, a hypeman and comedian said.
“I have video evidence where the leaders of the protest were saying and ensuring we are coming out on a peaceful protest,” Ajayi said this in response to the Police official statement that protesters had been violent.
The gun fire opened by members of the police force attached to the Owode division will later become responsible for the death of one and the cause of injury to seven others.
The dead man, Jimoh Isiaq, was a 20-year-old electrician nearing completion of his apprenticeship.
On Twitter, videos surfaced in real time of an unconscious Jimoh being placed on a bike enroute Bowen University Teaching Hospital where he was later confirmed dead.
Blood streamed freely from his two bullet wounds. His yellow shorts and sweatshirt were recoloured by his own blood.
“Immediately he was shot, police released tear gas,” protesters told this reporter and commented that this was a tactic to derail attempts to get him to medical help.
One of the protesters picked him up and immediately, others joined together to take him to the hospital.
“Yes.. he lives very close to the police station where people demanded for the area commander to address the protesters,” Ajayi said.
Isiaq had been standing from across his house, watching from afar. When he got close, the police began to shoot sporadically and then, the bullets caught him.
Soon, videos of his aging father began to trend. In it, the man is crying bitterly despite the attempts of people to pacify him.
He laments in Yoruba for his son who was then wrapped in a blood-soaked satin, ready to be buried.
“How do we pacify a man whose son has just been killed by the police?,” Protesters asked.
Closeby, a Twitter user, @i_am_dagos who also got shot in the protest tweeted, “I’m dying police just shot me.”
He had been shot in the head and he was bleeding out profusely. Luckily, he got whisked off to Lautech Teaching Hospital. Minutes later, he would make a series of distressed tweets.
“This could be my last tweet….Bye,” he tweeted forcing more people to make enquiries.
Later that day, the police communications department put out a memo that will later be disproved by video and pictorial evidence.
The police claimed to have been attacked by the protesters, and also, that they had neither fired guns nor killed anyone.
Serial arrests and panic…
Presently, some of those who participated in the protests in Ogbomoso are being secretly traced and arrested.
Some have been lucky enough to escape while some are unfortunately not so lucky.
“I cannot speak with you now. let us speak in thirty or forty five minutes” Adeleye Adekunle, a protestor who is also a student leader tells me over the phone sounding frightened.
“Nobody will see me in the next two hours because I have to protect my name.
“Presently, the area commander has checked on me at home and that is why I have to hide myself. I will place a video call to you when I’m sure,” he added.
Adeleye fled his home to evade possible arrest. After more than two hours, he calls the reporter on WhatsApp where a banana grove could be seen in the background.
He was wearing a white flowing shirt and one could hear male voices in the background. He starts to speak but his eyes dart away from his phone screen.
“I have spoken with Governor Seyi Makinde and he has promised to meet with us when he visits the family of the deceased,” he said.
Moments later, his phone line goes off.
He is not the only one on the radar.
AK Ajayi said he is also ‘laying low’ in an undisclosed location.
The hunt made it difficult to get protesters to speak with this reporter even under the condition of anonymity. They said they do not want to be targeted.
On the following day of protest…
More people came out to protest the event of the past day with the pain of Jimoh’s cold death hanging in the air.
Some of the protesters were friends, or friends of friends of Jimoh who planned to later stage a candle procession in his honour.
“His demise had been hard to take. It is impossible to not take it to heart,” they said.
They marched to Owode Police station where the Police officers opened more fire leading to several injuries and unconfirmed deaths.
The protesters retreated from the police station to the King’s palace where the Minister of youth and sports, Sunday Dare was meeting with the chieftains.
“The minister was having a meeting with the king and chiefs when we heard the protesters,” Mr. Rotimi Emmanuel who was in the meeting told this reporter in Yoruba.
“Some people started to throw stones and the palace guards were forced to lock the gate.
“Later, two people jumped in and they opened the gate for others who started to throw more stones, burn tyres and vandalize properties in sight. Then they laid two dead bodies down at the gate,” Emmanuel added.
He said that the Minister left in disguise and none of his men shot at the protestors although several reports claim otherwise.
The situation was eventually diffused by a joint task force named Operation Bust.
*Name has been changed to protect the respondent’s identity.
Pelumi Salako is a student journalist in Oyo State. He tweets @Salakobabaa This report was facilitated by Gatefield Impact.
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