A hotelier, Alhaji Sabitu Nofiu is the father of 30-year-old Babatunde Nofiu killed by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Iwo, Osun State. He tells The Punch’s Femi Makinde the anguish the incident has caused the family;
What do you want to say about your late son?
Was the deceased your first born?
No. He was not the first child. He was my fourth.
Was he a student or a job applicant?
He was an unemployed graduate.
Which school did he graduate from?
He graduated from the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree. He read Computer Science. Like I said, he was yet to find a job when his life was cut short by wicked SARS operatives. He was planning to travel out. He was scheduled to travel to Dubai (United Arab Emirates) on September 10 and he was killed barely two weeks to that time. He had obtained the visa and all the necessary documents he needed were intact but the journey was aborted. They just killed my glory and put an end to his dream. It is painful but what can I do?
The police carried out an autopsy on his corpse at the LAUTECH on Monday. Do you think that was necessary?
They carried out the autopsy although I was not there but there was no contrary report. It was glaring that he was shot dead by the policeman. The Osun State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fimihan Adeoye, came to my place to condole with the family.
He came on the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police to commiserate with the parents of the deceased.
The CP was at the Oluwo’s Palace when he instructed the Divisional Police Officer of Ayedire to visit me and I spoke with the CP on the telephone and I assured him that nobody would embarrass him. He was not the one who killed Tunde and I am sure he didn’t send the SARS operatives to go and kill. I told him that what had happened was irreversible and he also said that not all policemen were like those who killed my son. He told me that there would be no cover-up and that the four SARS operatives had been arrested and detained.
He said the IG called him because he had an interest in the case. He stated that the IG said justice would be done. The following day, the secretary of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Alhaji Rasak Salinsile, also came and he called the CP and I spoke with him again on the telephone. I told him that we heard a lot about him as a good officer and that he should continue in that line and ensure that justice was done in the case. He assured me again that justice would be done.
Are you confident that justice will be served in this case?
The CP assured me on several occasions on that. He is said to be a God-fearing person and despite this, we have hired a lawyer for this case to ensure that justice is done. That is what we pray for and expect. We have a medical report that his corpse was the one taken to the hospital.
Was there nobody around when he was shot?
There were some persons there. They were lucky to have escaped the bullets. They were witnesses and they said what they saw and everything was taken to the police headquarters in Osogbo.
Did he share his dream with you?
He read Computer Science and he said he wanted to pursue a career in the field. He was very brilliant. He resembled me so much and some people used to mistake the two of us. If he attended an event, I would not want to go there because it would be as if we were competing. The resemblance was too much. He was my younger version. He was industrious and you can find out from the people in Iwo.
Has he been buried?
Yes, we buried him on Tuesday evening, six days after he was killed. He was killed on Thursday night and we embalmed his corpse until burial. He was taken to LAUTECH Teaching Hospital on Monday and we learnt that they were planning to go on a strike. They dropped his corpse and the pathologist did his work. The commissioner for health, the special adviser to the governor on health and the state secretary of the APC called the doctor and said that he must not do anything funny. They told him that the case had become a government case. He was not even ready to do anything funny because he is a God-fearing person. But we got the permission from the magistrate and we decided to bury him and put an end to that because seeing his corpse would continue to evoke emotions and sorrows.
How did you hear about his death?
I did not hear anything. I didn’t know that the news had spread but I was shut out. Nobody told me anything. People were avoiding me but I didn’t know. It was some minutes after 10pm that the elder sister of the deceased received a call and I saw that she was troubled. I asked her what was wrong.
I told her that we would not close late on that Thursday because we closed around 1.30am the previous night being Sallah. I am an hotelier and that is the nature of the business. He said closing time was not the issue but she was told that Tunde had been shot and that his mobile was used to call her. She said they asked her to come together with me to the area command but I declined.
I wanted to know why he was shot before I would go there. I know that he was neither a thief nor a thug. I was shaking visibly. Maybe I would have died that night if I was hypertensive because of the shock.
We eventually got a mini bus to Iwo. Suddenly, those in the bus with me said we should turn back that we should no longer continue with the journey to Osogbo. Then I knew they had heard something which they didn’t want to tell me. I called his elder sister who earlier received the call when we got back inside and asked her if she didn’t think Tunde had died. She said she also had the same thought. I knew the worst had happened but the people did not want to break the news to me.
I decided to go and sleep at a brother’s place because I knew that they would not want to mourn if I had not told them that he had been killed. I returned home around 6.30am the following day and that was how they started wailing. People started trooping in to condole with us.
Do you have any advice for the police about SARS?
I have read a lot about how wicked SARS operatives are in other places but those in Iwo axis are extremely wicked. You can find out from the people in Iwo. I believe what happened following the killing of my son was as a result of a bottled up anger against them. If you see them (SARS operatives), some would wear only jeans trousers and no shirt. They would hold cutlasses, small pestles, rifles and axes. They normally tie a read cloth round their rifles and cutlasses. You would not even know if they were criminals or policemen. It is very bad.
They arrest indiscriminately. They arrest people in front of their shops and there was a day they arrested a woman in purdah and her husband. They arrested them in front of a school and asked them if they went inside the school to have sex. The woman told them that the man was her husband and that they did not need to sneak inside the bush to have sex. They took her to their station. One of them even started fondling the woman there. They had also arrested a masquerader.
These people are very wicked and are dreaded by the people in the Iwo area. Commercial motorcyclists (okada riders) are in trouble. None of them dare pass the front of their office from 6pm. Anyone caught is beaten mercilessly because they would always find something to nail the rider. They beat people mercilessly and would ask okada riders arrested to roll on the ground. The least bribe they ask, if anyone is arrested, is N50,000.
No vehicle could follow theirs on the road. Motorists would park and allow them to go and if they meet you on the road, you are in trouble. They would accuse you of blocking their way. They are so terrible in Ileogbo. If you insist on your right, they would cock their guns and threaten to shoot you. They are wicked and that was how they ended the life of my son.
Is it true that they shot into the air to scare the people and that it was a stray bullet from the fired shots that killed your son?
There was no ceremony where the incident happened. Nobody blocked the road and they didn’t shoot to scare anybody. If you shoot into the air, I believe the bullet would not have been hot while coming down. But that was not the case. He (the deceased) was shot on the right side of the stomach. I think he pointed the gun at him and shot him. There was no way a bullet fired into the air would hit my son in the stomach.
Where was he coming from?
He went to Iwo and wanted to take a motorcycle while returning to Ileogbo when he was killed by the wicked SARS operatives. I was told that the policemen reversed their vehicle and shot him. That was how he was killed.