At 20, young Ayomide Taiwo was already the breadwinner of his family. His father had died a few months after he was born on September 8, 2000 in Iragbiji, Boripe Local Government Area of Osun State. From then, the care of the family fell on the shoulders of his mother, Yemisi Taiwo, a farmer.
Lacking financial resources to continue his education, Ayomide enrolled as an apprentice with a fashion designer in the same town towards the end of 2016. At the end of he training in 2019, he embarked on petty sewing to raise money for his graduation which was billed for September 10 this year. Unfortunately, he was killed by a police officer over a N50 bribe, a month before the day that his mother had been looking forward to.
Late Ayomide had come home from Owena where he was practicing his trade to celebrate the Islamic festival, Eid-el-Kabir, with his mother. Days after the event on August 3, he decided to travel back to his base with his friend, Wasiu Oladimeji. The deceased had bought a motorcycle which they were riding on the fateful trip.
The journey to grave
As if she had a premonition, before leaving the house, Mrs Taiwo said she had counselled her son to be careful with bribe-seeking police officers on the road.
“Don’t argue with them on the road ooo. Once they ask for money, give them N50,” the widow recalled telling her son. She also recalled giving him 10 N50 notes (N500) for the bribes.
At Ere Junction in Obokun, Ayomide and his friend were stopped by police officers at a checkpoint; and as usual, they demanded a bribe. Mr Oladimeji said four officers attached to Obokun Divisional Police Headquarters stopped them and in the course of negotiating the bribe, an inspector who appeared drunk, Ago Egharevba, hit Ayomide with butt of his riffle.
“The officer was angry that he offered them N50. After hitting Ayomide’s head, we both fell from the motorcycle and blood was rushing out from his head, nose, mouth and ears. I also suffered injury,” Mr Oladimeji said. “Immediately that occurred, the officers who were not drunk ran away. As the one who carried out the attack was trying to escape, he was apprehended by passersby. We were later asked to rush Ayomide to hospital.”
A failed battle for survival
“A few minutes after he left, some people ran to my house crying that Ayomide had been attacked by a police officer. I was curious, knowing full well that my son was not a trouble-maker. Upon getting there, I met him in a pool of blood,” the mother recalled, weeping as she spoke with PREMIUM TIMES.
The family took Mr Ayomide to Ladoke Akintola Teaching Hospital (LAUTECH), Osogbo where he was admitted into the intensive care unit of the hospital. He spent six days in coma until he eventually passed away on August 9.
“If I knew he was going to die, I would not have allowed him to leave,” the woman said.
At the eve of the day of the incident, the DPO of Obokun police station,simply identified as Mr Atanda, came to the hospital with N30,000 and never returned. He has since refused to respond to calls from the victim’s family members.
“To ensure my son survived, I sold my two farms for N350,000 and also took extra loan but it did not end well. Now, I have no child to look after me. Even at 20, he was the breadwinner of the family and the go-to person either financially or in other sundry areas I needed assistance,” Mrs Taiwo said. “The world has ended for me as my star had gone. Ayomide was a reflection of his name and I doubt if I will recover from the grief.”
Her tears forced this reporter to stop the interview.
Corroborating his mother’s account, Adebayo, an elder brother to the deceased, said the family wants justice to be dispensed over the incident. He said the family spent over N400,000 to save Ayomide’s life but it was in vain.
Police actions, inactions
While the officer who fatally attacked Mr Ayomide is in custody, the family said the police did not assist with the hospital bills. They accused the police of negligence and inhumane acts.
“After Ayomide was confirmed dead, we were given another bill of N79,000 to pay at LAUTECH to claim the body. Unfortunately, the money I had alongside my mum that day was just N11,000. I called the police DPO to inform him but he shouted at me on the phone that we should ‘dump’ him in the mortuary. Since then, he has not responded to my calls and we don’t know how to get Ayomide out of the mortuary. We ought to have buried him but we are scared of incurring more debt. So, he’s still in the mortuary as we speak,” Adebayo concluded.
The Commissioner of Police in Osun, Undie Adie, has recommended the dismissal of Mr Egharevbe, the officer who attacked Ayomide, to the Inspector-General of Police.
On August 17, a Magistrate Court in Obokun remanded the officer for the killing which the prosecution said is contrary to and punishable under Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code Cap. 34 Vol. Il Laws of Osun State of Nigeria, 2002.
The Magistrate, B.O. Awosan, remanded the accused in Ilesa Correctional Centre and adjourned the case till October 19.
For three days, the state police spokesperson, Yemisi Opalola, refused to respond to our correspondent’s enquiries on whether the police have compensation for families of victims of such incidents. PREMIUM TIMES’ findings, however, revealed that the police do not have any policy of compensation for families of victims of extra-judicial killings.
Two top officers who spoke under anonymity said there is no compensation for even families of officers who die on official duties.
“The only means through which the family of the deceased can get compensation is if they have anybody at the top to help lobby the authorities. Ordinarily, there’s no provision or any policy for families of victims of extra-judicial killings. The best that can happen is dismissal of the perpetrators and then charge him to court,” one of the officers said.
“Even police officers who die during official duties rarely get insurance. The families of police officers will have to wait for years for insurance of the officers which is often less than five hundred thousand naira.”
Long before now, the Nigerian police force has been a haven for violators of human rights despite warnings from the IGP and presidency. Mounting roadblocks is one of the easiest ways for officers to shakedown motorists.
They compromise their official duties by taking arbitrary ‘fines’ from motorists and squeeze out as much as they can within the pace of a few seconds.
A sergeant was dismissed in 2013 following a viral video that showed him soliciting bribe in Lagos and in 2017 four officers were dismissed for extorting a citizen in Ijebu Ode Area, Ogun State.
In December 2018, the police in Ekiti sacked an officer for killing a motorist who reportedly refused to comply with bribe demands at a checkpoint.
Interestingly, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that over 105 cases of rights abuse were documented within the country while law enforcement agents, majorly composed of police officers, were enforcing the initial lockdown.
At that time, COVID-19 had claimed 11 lives in the country but there were already eight documented incidents of extra-judicial killing leading to 18 deaths – majority perpetrated by police officers.
Reacting to the latest killing, a human rights activist, Festus Ogun, said late Ayomide’s death is arbitrary, unacceptable and has no place in a civilized society.
“Human life is too sacred to be extrajudicially taken away by those ordinarily meant to protect it. Isn’t it lamentable that the Nigerian state devours its citizens through its security officers? Reports have it that some police officers are more of murderers than law enforcement agents; killing indiscriminately as though human lives means nothing.”
“Extra-judicial killing is an aberration under the Nigerian constitutional jurisprudence. Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right to life of every human and taking it away in such an agonizing manner is the highest encroachment on human rights. Whether high or low, justice must not only be served, it must be seen to have been served. Impunity just has to stop in Nigeria,” the lawyer said.