Metro & Crime

God should take my life, cries visually impaired mom

…lost two sons in less than one year

M rs. Abidemi Sanyaolu is a visually impaired woman. She became blind 11 years after a mysterious illness. She said that her visual impairment made her become a person with special needs, dependent on people. She has two children; one of them was 14-year-old Mubarak Sanyaolu. Mubarak, a compassionate child by nature, became Abidemi’s eyes and legs, and even spoon fed her. Abidemi, who said that her husband leaves home every morning to look for a tricycle to use for commercial purposes before they can feed, said that life was hellish for them. She was beginning to come to terms with her condition, when her first son suddenly fell sick and died.

She wept and mourned him. She said that this year, Mubarak, “my eyes and legs” was killed by a stray bullet from a trigger happy policeman. Since then, the woman had become distraught and inconsolable. Abidemi said that since the death of Mubarak, nobody, either from the police or state government had cared enough to ask her how she was coping or her mental health state. The boy was killed on November 3, 2021 and on November 22, our reporter went to the Meiran area of Lagos State, to find out how the bereaved woman was coping. The reporter was stunned to discover that Abidemi, her husband and the two deceased live in a shop, given to them by a Good Samaritan.

The shop is their ‘home.’ A heartbroken Abidemi said that she wanted the policeman that killed Mubarak- a senior secondary student (SS1) of District Secondary School, and a vulcaniser apprentice in the neighbourhood- to be brought to book. She was uncomfortable with the silence from the police and government quarters. Mubarak was killed during a protest caused by the alleged killing of a tricycle operator.

The cyclist was killed by a policeman at the Ajasa- Command area of Lagos State. Eyewitnesses alleged that the policeman shot the cyclist to death for refusing to part with a bribe of N100. Abidemi sobbed: “My husband works as a commercial tricycle operator and leaves home early on most days. Mubarak was the person that took care of me; if I wanted to have my bath, use the toilet or feed, it was Mubarak. I can’t even do anything with the aid of my stick.

After school hours, he would head to his apprentice job, where he was learning to become a vulcaniser. On that fateful day, he was returning from his apprentice work when he was killed.” She added: “Mubarak was trying to cross the road after the owner of the workshop where he was learning his trade asked him and other apprentices to go home because the protest was becoming violent. The policemen who were deployed to quell the ongoing protest, started shooting indiscriminately in the area, unmindful that people were around. A bullet hit Mubarak and he died on the spot.

I was at home when people carried his corpse home and laid it at our doorstep. He was just 14 years old! My only guide after I lost my sight. I would have preferred God took my life instead of Mubarak’s. What am I still doing on this earth?” Seeking justice, the woman implored people to guide her to Meiran Police Station, accompanied by sympathisers.

The police, however, prevented them from entering the station; even threatened to shoot into the midst of the group. Abidemi narrated: “The policemen at the station threatened to shoot us, forcing the people that took me there to run away. They returned me home, saying they didn’t want police to kill them the way they killed my son. Last year, Mubarak’s elder brother died after a brief illness. Now the police have killed my only remaining child. I’m left with nothing! To make matters worse, police authorities didn’t come to commiserate with us. I have no hope again because the boy was my only hope. I have only God to fight for me.

Since his death, I have been bumping into objects whenever I’m going to the bathroom or toilet. I can’t tell my husband not to go to work so that he can stay home to watch over me. If he stops going to work, how shall we feed?” Mubarak’s father, Mr. Olamilekan Sanyaolu, said the bullet from the police gun hit the deceased in the stomach, killing him instantly.

He recalled: “I was relaxing in a compound nearby when some residents rushed in, and asked me to follow them, that they wanted to show me something; they didn’t tell me what. On getting there, I discovered Mubarak had been killed. I collapsed on the road and became unconscious.

I was later revived by people. My son was in a pool of blood on the ground and the police refused to allow me to take his corpse. They took his corpse away in a van, and as I’m speaking with you, they are yet to release his corpse for burial.” The grieving father further stated: “The burden is too much for me. I have the challenges of my visually impaired wife to contend with; nobody to take care of her. It was Mubarak that used to take her to the bathroom, toilet and feed her whenever she wanted to eat.

In fact, before heading to school, he would feed her and do the same after school. When he returns in the evening from his apprenticeship, he would feed her. I don’t know who will be doing those things for her now. The Lagos State Government should come to my aid and assist me financially so that I can take care of my wife. Government should not allow Mubarak to die in vain.” Mubarak’s boss, Mr. Taofeek Qudri, rec-ollecting the events of that fateful day, said he had to immediately close for the day and ordered all his apprentices to head home because he didn’t want them to be attacked as the protest continued to escalate. He remembered: “I had barely left the place when gunshots started coming from different directions. I was told that Mubarak had been killed by a stray bullet.

The police shot directly at the protesters and one of the shots killed Mubarak. I tried to carry him from the floor, but the policemen fired canisters of teargas and I had to flee the scene because it affected my eyes.” A human right activist, who simply identified himself as Skido said it was unfortunate the boy died in such circumstances.

He said that when the crisis started, Mubarak’s boss had asked the deceased and his colleagues to go home to avoid being hit by stray bullets. Skido said: “The bullet hit him at the front of Command Secondary School. Even one of the soldiers guarding the school tried to rescue him, but the police threatened to shoot the soldier, so he left the boy to his fate.

The gunshot tore open Mubarak’s stomach and other people sustained injuries. I heard that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Meiran Police Station, called Mubarak’s father and told him to go to the mortuary to collect the remains of his son for burial. He said that after the burial the man should come for negotiations. When the grieving father refused to go, the DPO started threatening him and his wife. We want the policeman that killed the boy to be punished. We have also sent a petition to the Lagos State Police Command because we want justice for Mubarak.”

A neighbour to the Sanyaolus, who identified himself as Adekunle, said: “The death of that boy was unfortunate! I don’t know how the mom will cope without him. I’m appealing to the Lagos State Government to assist the boy’s parents and to also punish the policeman that pulled the trigger. We are all pained by the death of Mubarak.” The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Adekunle Ajisebutu, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), said the matter had been transferred to the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (SCIID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos. He added: “You can rest assured that we will issue a public statement at the conclusion of the ongoing investigation.”

 

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