Sunday 10 December 2023

My son’s corpse still in mortuary two years after police killed him – Father


Olamilekan Sanyaolu, the father of 14-year-old Mubarak, who was allegedly killed by a stray bullet on November 4, 2021, at Command bus stop in the Meiran area of Lagos State, tells EMMANUEL OJO how his family has been affected by the tragedy

Where was Mubarak on the day he was killed?

My name is Olamilekan Sanyaolu, the father of Mubarak Sanyaolu, who was killed by the police on November 4, 2021. On that day, the boy dressed up and went out to the place where he was learning a vocation. At that time, he was observing a midterm break in school and he was in Senior Secondary School 1. The midterm holiday lasted a week and before then, he had spent two years learning the vocation and he had just a year (left) to gain freedom from apprenticeship before the incident occurred.

I was at home that morning and it wasn’t more than one hour after he left that we heard of a riot outside. I got to know that there was a riot around the Command Secondary School in front of the Army barracks. So, when I heard that the police had killed someone in Command, I went out to see for myself. 

What did you see when you got there?

I saw the corpse of a man, whose nickname was Eleyele. It was because of him that the trouble ensued with the police. Being a commercial tricycle rider, it was said that a policeman requested N100 from him but he said he wasn’t working at that moment, and that he only wanted to drop the tricycle for the person who wanted to use it. So, he (Eleyele) refused to give the policeman the money and the policeman threatened to waste him if he did not give him the money. They reportedly went back and forth with the argument, after which the policeman allegedly opened his bag, brought out a knife, and stabbed the tricycle operator in the chest. That was how the man fell. People rushed him to a nearby hospital only to be told that he was dead.

What happened after that?

The boys around took the corpse to the Meiran Police Station at the bus stop. That was the beginning of trouble as there were many policemen at the Command area that day. I went to see Mubarak because the place where the man was killed is not far from the place where my son was learning his vocation. When I got there, the people at the scene where the incident happened gathered inside a shopping complex where they sought safety, and by the time the heat of the riot had gone down and the complex was opened, we discovered that the policemen who gathered there were more than 15. They were not only armed with guns but also bottles, machetes and stones.

So, as they shot with their guns, they also threw bottles and stones at people. When the chaos subsided a bit, more people had the opportunity to leave the complex for their safety, and at the time, Mubarak was there. It was when he ran out that the policemen shot. Mubarak and another person were hit; the second person was just lucky that he didn’t die because he was hit on his hand, but a stray bullet hit Mubarak and he fell on the walkway.

Did you know at that moment that one of the two persons shot was your son?

I saw that people gathered around there and I couldn’t have thought that it would be my son. When I got there, I saw that it was my son, who was shot. I saw his clothes that were stained (with blood) at the back and people put their hands on their heads. When we tried to pull him up, his intestines were out and he could not talk. His eyes were open and he was looking at me but couldn’t say a word. I quickly rushed him to the same hospital where the other man was taken, but the hospital couldn’t save the boy’s life. They locked their gates. It was at the gate of the hospital that he died.

The people in the area told us to take his corpse to the police station; so, we took it there and when we were almost there, some policemen confronted us and told us to drop the corpse on the road, and that if we didn’t do that, they would kill another person and nothing would happen. The boys who came along insisted that they wouldn’t do that. So, the policemen fired teargas canisters and the commercial motorcyclist that took me there made a U-turn and we came back to Command. The soldiers at the Command barracks later went to the station to see the divisional police officer, spoke with him, and told me to follow them to the station.

What happened when you got there?

When we got there, they didn’t allow us to see the DPO and we discovered that they (policemen) picked up Mubarak’s corpse where we left it. The soldiers asked me where exactly I left my child’s remains and I pointed to the place. One of the soldiers brought out his phone and took some photographs. We were told that the DPO was busy and that we should return the next day at 10am. I couldn’t go home that day; I slept in a church. When I got home, I noticed that people had been coming around. Some human rights activists also came and insisted that the boy couldn’t be buried like that and that the right thing must be done.

Has your son’s corpse been released to you?

The corpse is still in a mortuary. It has not been released. It is in a mortuary in Yaba. When we went back to see the DPO, he said the body was already in a mortuary and that when we were ready, they would give us a vehicle to collect it. I told him that I wanted to see the corpse, so he gave us a vehicle that day, a patrol van with six policemen to follow us. I went with two human rights activists and when we got there, we discovered that the corpse was abandoned at one corner and the people there said the policemen who brought it said they didn’t know what happened to the boy, that he was picked up by the roadside and that they just helped him.

I later told the doctor who sat in front of me that the policemen were the ones who killed him. One of the policemen, who is a senior officer, said that I shouldn’t repeat what I said. He said they (the policemen) were not caught killing the boy. I told him that I saw them when they fired a shot from their white patrol van and when they saw that the boy had been hit by a bullet, I carried him and they saw that his intestines were out. I also told him that shortly after that, they moved towards Iyana Ipaja from Command.

It’s been two years since your son died. Have you been communicating with the police on the incident?

I didn’t hear anything from them. The DPO at the Meiran Police Station at that time told me to give her two weeks to call her bosses and that after calling them, she would let us know what happened next. We waited for about a month before we went back to ask for an update and she said that her bosses had not responded. The activists later said that they were interested in the matter and that they would take it to court. That was when she (the DPO) started begging that the matter should not get to court and that we could settle it.

It’s been over two years and three weeks since the incident occurred on November 4, 2021. We went to the office of the Commissioner of Police and he referred us to (the State Criminal Investigation Department), Panti, that he had referred the case there. When we got to Panti, the officer handling the case at that time told us that they had done an autopsy and that I should go to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital to get a doctor, who would do another autopsy. We asked them why they carried out an autopsy without involving any of the family members. That was the first issue we had with them at Panti that day. They feel that I don’t have anybody to fight for me.

How would you describe Mubarak?

He was one of my favourite children because his mother went blind 12 years ago. He was the one who helped her to move around. He did the house chores and bought food for his mother. At times when he was at work and the mother called, he would come home to get food for her and help her get everything she needed. They went to church together and did many things together.

He had just a year left to complete his apprenticeship and I was confident that when he started on his own, he would be able to support himself through school, and some financial burden would get off my shoulders. That was why I said in an earlier video that the boy was my own (Babajide) Sanwo-Olu. If they had killed someone like Sanwo-Olu at such a tender age, he wouldn’t have become what he is today. At his age, he provided some financial support. There were times he told his mother not to worry, and that he would buy food for her on his way back from work. Since he died, all the burden has been on me alone.

How old was he?

Mubarak was 14 years old when he died. He was killed shortly after he turned 14 and since then, we have not heard anything from the authorities, but I want justice on the matter.

How many children do you have?

Mubarak was my second child. The first child is a girl, but she was not living with us until the incident occurred. We had to bring the girl back home from where she was. With Mubarak’s death, we had two children left, but we had a set of twins a few weeks ago.

How is his mother coping with the loss?

I wasn’t the one who informed the mother (of Mubarak’s death). She called me on the phone that day and asked about Mubarak, and I said he was fine, and that nothing was wrong with him, but she noticed that I was crying over the phone. She then called our pastor and narrated what happened. When the pastor called me, I opened up to him about the incident. She felt it in her mind that something had happened. It was people around the house who told her. There’s no time she doesn’t talk about him. I’m the one who usually calms her down and appeal to her that what is gone is gone, that even if we think about it from now till tomorrow, it will not undo what has happened.

Can you describe how you felt when you saw your son’s lifeless body?

As I carried him that day, turned his face, and saw his stomach, I felt like I could have killed the policeman who shot him if he and his colleagues had not run away. I felt there was nothing wrong in killing someone, who murdered such a boy. We don’t have a good government in this country because if we had, something would have been done on this matter; it’s been over two years now. I’m sure if he was the son of a senator or governor, something would have been done about it. The corpse of my child is abandoned somewhere in a mortuary. I feel sad each time that comes to mind. I thank well-meaning Nigerians who have rallied around to help us. Since his demise, eating has been quite challenging because he gave some form of financial support to the family from the little he was getting from his place of vocational training. He supported his mother.

What do you do for a living?

I used to be a commercial tricycle rider, but at the moment, I don’t have a tricycle.

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