Two families who lost their loved ones after police officers fired live ammunition to #EndSARS protesters in Ogbomoso on Sunday have come under unbridled police intimidation, according to People’s Gazette.
The online news outlet reported that the police leadership stepped in after Taiwo Adeoye and Moshood’ Akeju’ Abdulganiu were killed by officers, prevailing on their families not to pursue an investigation into the killings.
Babalola Sarafa, a police superintendent and divisional police officer in Ogbomoso, successfully hustled the families into swearing affidavits, rejecting an autopsy on the victims and demanding their immediate burial.
The families were also compelled to swear that they do not want the police murder of their loved ones investigated or prosecuted.
The DPO quickly wrote to LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, asking the chief medical director to release the bodies to the families for burial immediately.
But the plot was thwarted after Hussein Afolabi, a criminal law expert who has been advising the families, told the families the implications of going ahead with the police’s scheme.
Babalola and the Force Headquarters did not return separate requests seeking comments from the Gazette on Thursday evening.
Adeoye and Abdulganiu were murdered by police officers when they joined other citizens to participate in the worldwide march to demand an end to police brutality in downtown Ogbomoso, a historic Yoruba settlement just 100 kilometres north of Ibadan.
While Abdulganiu was killed at the protest venue, Adeoye was murdered when residents besieged the palace of the town’s traditional ruler to mourn the dead and challenge police’s use of lethal force in responding to their protests.
The previous day, residents of the town had witnessed similar chaos when police fatally shot Jimoh Isiaq, a 20-year-old technical apprentice. Isiaq was summarily buried in line with his Muslim faith, preempting autopsy.
But the circumstances that surrounded the killing of Adeoye and Abdulganiu were more fluid and consequential for both the police and the Nigerian government.
For one, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, was present at the palace when Adeoye was killed. He had made an emergency trip to Ogbomoso, his hometown, to condole with the families of Mr Isiaq and encourage peace in the #EndSARS protest.
But when the community youth descended on the palace with the corpse of Abdulganiu, Dare’s police orderlies and soldiers reportedly opened fire in a bid to save their principal, killing Adeoye and wounding several others, witnesses told Peoples Gazette.
Shortly after he hurried out of the palace, Dare moved to take charge of emerging narrative out of Ogbomoso, tweeting without evidence that the protesters were hoodlums who tried to kill, maim and wreck the palace.
The minister’s tweetstorm was silent on how his orderlies opened fire, much fewer condolences and investigation.
The police’s handling of the matter and Dare’s apparent cover-up tactics provided a serious ground for a thorough investigation, but the officer saw the families as less challenging to intimidate into helping them suppress autopsy, Gazette’s findings showed.
Governor Seyi Makinde had promised a thorough investigation into the violence unleashed against the protesters by the police when he visited the deceased’s families on Tuesday, including an autopsy and ballistic examinations.
Fearful of all potential inquiries into the killings, Sarafa approached the families, after discussing with Ogbomoso area commander, Yemi Oyeniyi, and Oyo police commissioner, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, police sources said.
The police asked Adeyemi Adeoye, a member of Adeoye’s family, to swear an affidavit for his body’s release without an autopsy.
Fasilat Abdulganiu and Lawal Tajudeen, who described themselves as members of Abdulganiu’s family, also swore affidavit for the release of his remains without an autopsy.
The affidavits were sworn between October 13 and 14, and Sarafa subsequently wrote to the chief medical director of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital to release the bodies.
But after Afolabi caught wind of the plot, he asked the families to withdraw the affidavit from the police and allow investigations to continue.
“The police have no powers to compel a family to swear an affidavit against an autopsy,” Afolabi said.
“We will ensure that justice is done in this case.”
The newspaper confirmed that LAUTECH Teaching Hospital had conducted autopsies for the victims, and preliminary reports would be made public shortly.
The intimidation of both families came as Nigerians are demanding a thorough investigation into police’s handling of the #EndSARS protesters across the country, which Amnesty International said had left at least ten killed by officers.