If there is one thing the wife of 43-year-old Bukola Adeogun, a lotto operator in Oke-Afa in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State is sure of, it is that her husband was hale and hearty before he was arrested by men of the Okokomaiko Police Division, Lagos on January 28.
According to residents of the area, men of the division are known for conducting raids regularly, rounding up members of communities under the division and forcing them to pay thousands of naira to get themselves released.
But on the Tuesday night Bukola fell victim of this alleged money-making venture of the division, while others paid different amounts of money to secure their freedom, he paid with his life.
His wife, Adewunmi, a mother of four nursing a child that is barely two months old, was bathing for their baby when news got to her that her husband had been arrested in the raid.
Bukola operated his lotto shop in front of their house. He was sitting in front of the shop relaxing with a friend when they were both arrested.
With her baby strapped to her back and barely pausing to wear enough clothes, Adewunmi raced to the police station.
While speaking to a correspondent, she said: “When I got there, the policemen initially did not want me to enter the station despite telling them that my husband was one of those that were arrested in the raid. I decided to force my way inside. I saw many people who had been arrested with my husband. I estimate they were more than 20. But strangely, my husband was lying on the ground gasping for breath.
“He was gasping and foaming in the mouth when I saw him. How can a man who was still playing with his baby that evening and was perfectly fine when I saw him last be dying before my eyes?
“I quickly grabbed the nearest policeman and demanded to know what they had done to my husband. He pushed me away calling me stupid and the child on my back nearly fell off. A woman who was nearby quickly carried the child.
“I asked the police to give me the phone they took from him so I could call his family but they refused to hand it over. They said my husband was pretending and that when he was tired of pretending, he would stand up.
“I kept asking what they did to him. After 30 minutes that they realised that he still did not stand up and the gasping had become worse, they told two of the men they arrested with him to take him outside. They did not even bother to follow us. He was still gasping for breath as we took him home.”
The deceased’s body in the back of a police van
It was learnt that it was past midnight by the time the police released Bukola to his wife.
Adewunmi said because it was very late, they could not get a cab to take them home. They eventually got a sympathetic commercial motorcyclist, who helped transport him as his wife sat behind him on the motorcycle to prop him up as Bukola could no longer sit up by himself.
Our correspondent asked why they did not take him straight to the hospital, but Adewunmi said they had hoped to take him to a hospital close to their house.
“At home, I was preparing to get some extra clothes for him and take him to the hospital when he breathed his last. I had to raise the alarm and get the phone of one of our neighbours to call his father,” Adewunmi said.
Saturday PUNCH spoke with Bukola’s father, a retired policeman. The man explained that his son’s body was still in the mortuary and that he was waiting for the autopsy report.
“I don’t want to say anything to jeopardise the investigation. But as soon as the autopsy report is out, I will personally give you a call,” he said.
But Adewunmi has remained inconsolable.
The police have denied that the police were responsible for Bukola’s death and that he was arrested during a raid on “criminal hideouts”.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Chike Oti, who reacted to the story said, “Criminal hideouts within that axis were raided by the policemen attached to Okokomaiko Police Division. He was among those brought to the station for interrogation.
“Few minutes later, a woman stormed the station claiming that her husband was among those arrested during the raid. She claimed that the man was sick and demanded that he should be released to her. The police obliged her and they went home together. So, no one died within the station’s premises and he was not tortured to death,” he said.
But 32-year-old Adewunmi said her husband was never ill and that she never told the police to release him on account of ill health.
“I found him dying on the floor of the station. I am a petty trader while my husband was the one fending for this family. My first children are twins aged seven, the one following them is three while the baby I am nursing is just two months old. How do I fend for my family? How do I carry the burden that the police brutality has put on my head?” she said.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that when Bukola’s father arrived on the morning of his son’s death, he proceeded to the police station and reported to the divisional police officer what had happened.
Bukola was beaten with gun butt twice – Eyewitness
Saturday PUNCH spoke to the man who helped Adewunmi to carry her husband home from the police station.
The man, who identified himself as Murtala, is a vulcaniser in the area and an acquaintance of Bukola.
He explained that they were in front of Bukola’s lotto shop when the policemen simply grabbed them without any reason and bundled them inside a patrol vehicle.
According to him, while they were trying to get them in the vehicle, Bukola demanded to know why they were being arrested and one of the policemen hit him with the butt of his AK-47 rifle.
Murtala said, “They eventually took us to the station alongside a few others they arrested with us. When we got to the station, we realised that there were already many others there.
“They collected all our phones and told us to sit on the floor of the station. He (Bukola) stood up to ask again what he had done wrong to be arrested when one of the policemen again used the butt of his AK-47 rifle to hit him hard in the side. He went down immediately.
“Shortly after, he started to vomit. When he was vomiting and gasping for breath, they did not do anything. Later his wife came and when I told them I knew him, they asked me to assist the wife to take him home. I had to call someone else to help me because the wife could not carry him as a result of the child on her back.
“It was hard to get a motorcycle but after roaming the street for a while, I eventually got one. I left them when I helped to get him home but was shocked and sad when I heard later that he had died.”
Murtala also confirmed that policemen from the division were notorious for conducting raids in the area and arresting residents.
One of Bukola’s neighbours, Henry Adejube, said the deceased was known as Baba Ibeji (father of twins) by neighbours.
He said, “When they took him from his shop, they continued beating him as they took him to the police station until he collapsed.
“The policemen thought he was pretending and they started kicking him and pouring water on him to revive him but to no avail. He was foaming from the mouth.”
Adejube said when the DPO of the station eventually paid a visit to the deceased’s house, angry residents gathered and started to throw stones at the police team.
The team had to call for reinforcement of members of Special Anti-Robbery Squad operatives who descended on the place with sporadic shooting to get the DPO out.
He said another police team later came to take the body away to the mortuary when the residents had calmed down.
In the last few months, stories of violence allegedly perpetrated by policemen across the country continue to dominate discussions on police-public relations, while fatalities such as the case of Bukola add to a long list of victims whose families are demanding justice.
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