Wives of some of the policemen who lost their lives to the violence that followed the shooting of peaceful #EndSARSprotesters by soldiers in Lekki, Lagos have narrated how their husbands and breadwinners were gruesomely murdered by rampaging hoodlums.
In emotion-laden interviews with Saturday PUNCH, they described their loss as heartbreaking, calling on police authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and help the family members left behind by the slain cops.
Meanwhile, in Oyo State alone, no fewer than five policemen lost their lives. They were identified as Inspector Audu Yusuf, Inspector Peter Abegunde, Inspector James Akanmu, Sergeant Adegoke Ajibola and Corporal Rotimi Oladele.
Abegunde’s widow, Sikirat, who is also a policewoman, and Oladele’s widow, Feranmi, who is a hairdresser, explained to one of our correspondents how their husbands died.
While the late Abegunde was said to have been seized at a station and beaten by hoodlums before he was set on fire, the late Oladele and another occupant, also a policeman, in a police vehicle were beaten and set ablaze close to the Iwo Road interchange.
Feranmi recalled that on Thursday, October 22, the day her husband died, she advised him not to go given the level of violence across the country, but that he said he needed to be at work and that since he worked at the Eleyele Police headquarters, he would be safe.
The widow, who put to bed about 16 days before the day of the incident, explained that she was later told her husband and others were sent on an assignment but in the process their patrol vehicle ran into a commercial motorcyclist.
She said when the atmosphere became tensed, the two policemen tried to escape but were chased to Iwo Road by the hoodlums who beat them and set them ablaze.
She added, “I heard on the radio around 11am that two policemen were killed at Iwo Road. Even though my neighbours and me were worried that policemen were being attacked, I didn’t think my husband could be among because he was largely an administrative person and wasn’t in the patrol team. He joined the police in 2012 and since he was transferred from Ekiti State to Ibadan, he never worked at police checkpoint.
“The okada rider didn’t die and being a gentle person, we heard they pleaded with the mob that it was a mistake, but the hoodlums didn’t budge. If he was a violent person, he would have attempted to resist the mob attack maybe by shooting in the air, but they were killed.”
She said she became worried when he didn’t return home at his usual time.
She added, “By 8pm, the barracks was already deserted. I was alone with the children. I called but I couldn’t reach him. Around 9pm, I was so worried, so I called my sister-in-law and asked her to help me check him at the office. Later, they told me he had an accident and only broke a limb. I was frightened the more.
“To cut the long story short, my family members came around on Friday morning and broke the news to me. I cried and cried. My husband was killed by angry mob 16 days after the christening of our baby. I was told my husband was burnt alive. Some neighbours told me they heard about it earlier but no one could break the news to me.”
She said her husband was everything to her and that they loved each other.
“He was my angel and a nice person to people around him,” she said. “If he had N1,000 on him and I needed money, he would be ready to part with N990. The entire barracks is grieving over his death.
“I want the government to assist our children, even if it’s scholarship so their education doesn’t suffer. I had just finished training as a hairdresser but now there is no money to set up a salon. Government should help us.”
Meanwhile, Sikirat said she had yet to ascertain the whereabouts of her husband, whether dead or alive, since he left the house on Tuesday, October 20.
She said he left for work early as his Divisional Police Officer told him to report for work so they could monitor a peaceful protest in front of his station at Ojoo. She said he later called that hoodlums had burnt down their other outpost and she told him to be careful.
“After 1pm, he called that I should pick the children from the school. Before 2pm, I called to tell him that I had picked the children and we were going home. Until now, I have been calling his line but it’s not reachable. I called his colleagues but the numbers were also not available.
“The next day, I went to their station and saw that it had been burnt down. I wondered what was going on. I didn’t have the number of the DPO, so I went to Eleyele, police headquarters, to report that I could not find my husband. They said they would get back to me.
“There I saw a burnt corpse but I didn’t know whether it was a human being or an animal. On Thursday, I asked my neighbour to accompany me to the headquarters. I met the Police Public Relations Officer who asked me to drop my phone number that they would contact me. But I heard the area boys saying ‘we burnt two policemen; some were wounded and some were killed.’”
She said she and her children were still hopeful that Inspector Abegunde would return home. She added, “We went to the hospitals at Ojoo and Agbowo but the doctors said they didn’t have victims there. We also went to Adeoyo State Hospital, but they said no corpse was brought there.
“On Friday, I got a message that read ‘I am not too sure if your husband was among the two people that were burnt in front of the station.’ I have been parading the headquarters to ask for the whereabouts of my husband.”