Despite the assurance that the police would protect and respect the rights of Nigerians to protest the policies of government provided they do not turn violent and destructive, men of the Nigeria Police Force in Lagos and Kano shot and killed innocent Nigerians.
While the victim in Kano was a protester, the one in Lagos was not. But they are both tales woven together with grief and anguish.
They slept together the night before. And they woke together yesterday morning, planning how their day would be spent as usual. But by sunset yesterday, the reality of the new life of loneliness had hit Opeyemi, whose room-mate, Demola Aderinde, had been shot dead by the police in the Ogba area of Lagos.
It was a wanton killing, as nothing warranted the firing of bullet at neighbourhood football players by the police who were patrolling the streets to maintain order. Many who saw what happened have not stopped wondering why the police would mow down innocent and harmless persons, just like that. But that indeed will be in keeping with the notorious recklessness associated with the Nigeria Police.
In his narration, Opeyemi stated that Demola used to be his roommate before he was killed. “We shared the same room before he died; he was my roommate,” he said. Demola was a commercial motorcyclist, also called Okada rider. Opeyemi recounted how they both woke up side by side on the same bed yesterday morning. He said he remembered that Demola felt somehow different. He said it was like the late cyclist felt like not going out.
But after some time, Opeyemi said Demola took his bike and rode out for business.
On getting to a place in Yaya-Abatan, Ogba, Opeyemi said that some youths playing football right on the street, asked him where he was going with his bike; that didn’t he know there was protest and strike? “On hearing that, he came back home and parked his bike in the compound,” Opeyemi said.
He explained that they both went out together, to where the same youths who turned him back were playing football; but did not join them in the play. “I was on one side of the street, while he was on the other side. He was not playing football but discussing with some other youths who were just watching the rest playing football on the street,” he said.
According to him, it was while they were there that some police officers led by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Agege Station, Mr. Segun Olubunmi, without warning or provocation whatsoever, or even shooting of teargas canisters, suddenly shot into the air.
“While we were trying to run away, the DPO shot another round at us. In the ensuing melee, as people scampered away for safety, we turned and found that four people have been shot. My Demola was among them. They were all bleeding profusely and riding in pain. While one had two bullet holes on his thigh twice, another was shot on the knee cap,” he said.
The people managed to draw nearer, only after the killer police team had driven away.
Opeyemi said that when the police officers drove away, the wounded youths were rushed to the General Hospital in Fagba. But help was slow in coming.
The hospital authorities in a vexatious insistence on getting a police report before commencing treatment ignored the emergency that was before them. On their way to get the police report, some youths phoned that the hospital had commenced treatment on the wounded Demola who had already lost so much blood. People were asked to donate blood. But just before this could be done, Demola gave up the ghost.
But according to his former roommate, “I think he was already dead even before we took him to the hospital.”
The news of the death of the young man was quick to spread and angry youths, numbering over a 100 would later storm the Agege Police Station with the corpse of Demola, which they dropped in front of the police station. According to Opeyemi, on storming the station, angry youths requested the DPO to be brought out.
“Some other youths who later heard about the deaths began throwing stuffs into the station, almost setting it ablaze,” he said. After a while, the police shot into the air, tear-gassed the crowd and dispersed them.
The corpse of Demola was later removed by the police to an undisclosed location.
The distraught Opeyemi said that their request from the police was first the release of Demola’s corpse for his parents to bury. “His parents are leaving in Ilesa, Osun State. I have called them on phone and told them what happened, and so they are on their way. Also, we heard that this is not the first time the police DPO is doing this. Some people said that he did it two days ago and also shot dead a young man who used to drive bike,” he said.
The punishment of the DPO plus the release of the deceased corpse to his relatives for burial would tame their anger.
And in Badawa quarters, Kano, Abdulmalik Rabiu, 27, who was also killed by the police had joined the protesters. He probably feared that it might turn fatal.
He had approached his father, early in the morning, announcing his plan to join the protesters, and asked for his father’s blessing which was given. But the prayers of 72-year-old Mallam Rabiu Badawa could not save his son.
It turned out a farewell prayer as Abdulmalik never got back home alive.
Speaking with THISDAY, Mallam Rabiu explained that ‘I will never forget this day when I lost my son during a protest meant for the collective interest of the masses,” stressing, “I will continue praying for the repose of his soul.”
He narrated with tearful eyes that Abdulmalik, a member of staff of Nasiha Communication, lived as a devout Muslim, honest and respected who strove to earn a legitimate living, vowing that, “I will never forgive the police who shot and killed him.”
The old man swore to henceforth become an active participant at anti-government protests, as a way of honouring the memory of his son.
Abdulmalik’s mother, Hajiya Amina Badawa, said her son was a hero. “We lost a hero because he was killed struggling for the entire Nigerian masses”, adding that “even me at my old age of 53 years, I will join the labour so that those who killed him shall also kill the entire family”, and that the family would never forget and forgive the killers during the protests.