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12.02.2021 Justice CHASED TO DEATH: How Lagos Task Force Officials Killed an Aged Widow’s Son — Then Tried to Bribe the Family

Published 12th Feb, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

The death of 28-year-old Damilare Emmanuel Adesubokan on a sunny Tuesday in January left her aged mother extremely bitter and broken for two reasons: the need to identify the killer of her son, whom she regarded as her “last support system’”, and to secure justice against the culprit. The Police are saying it was a calamity by a hit-and-run driver but several eyewitnesses are protesting otherwise. Gabriel Ogunjobi picked up the trail among the crowd of protesters until he found independent witnesses of the event.


Damilare stopped over at the house of his aunt, Mrs. Adebisi Alaka, at no 21 Agbalaya street, Charity area of Oshodi, Lagos. He did so to bid her farewell, then he made his way to the site of his bricklaying job in Ajah. 

The early-morning visit at 5:30am was because he would not return that day to grind pepper for his aged mother’s customers in front of the aunt’s house. Saheed Sonubi, a senior brother in the neighborhood, also saw his rear view but little did they know this was their very final glimpse of him. 

Less than an hour later, a call from Damilare’s phone number rang on the aunt’s phone, but Damilare was not the one calling. It was the announcer of his death. 

Afterwards, Saheed’s phone was used in transmitting gory pictures of his remains online, as a mammoth crowd protested to the office of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit (also known as Task Force) at Bolade, Oshodi. They alleged that the killer is an officer of the corps.

THE HOT CHASE BEFORE THE BLOODY ACCIDENT

As emotions heightened among the protesters, it was difficult to sieve the actual witnesses from the crowd. Many sympathizers only showed up after the incident had happened and the young man had died.

“I was not there when it happened but eyewitnesses told us it was the Task Force that killed our brother,” Saheed said.

A woman bread seller was said to be vehemently cursing the task force members because she identified the officers wearing their branded uniforms.

“They can’t deny that allegation because they even came back, trying to pick the corpse,” she says. “But we resisted it until they eventually allowed us to go with the remains of the dead in our car.”

The confrontation with the task force didn’t end on the scene.

ONE DEATH, MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS

Damilare was carried in a pool of blood by four to five people. At least a hundred people followed them. They all protested to the Task Force office, seeking justice for the deceased.

“If these people didn’t kill him, we will not carry the corpse to their office?”, Azeez Otti, a union member, asserted.

‘Pappy Kamoli’, a union leader in Oshodi garage, was identified in the multitude of people appealing to the protesters for calm in front of the gun-wielding Task Force and policemen. But he declined to speak.

However, Omoteso Abake, a female petty trader displaying her goods some 10 feet away from the exact spot of Damilare’s death, offered to. 

“Truly, we are not supposed to be sell things by the roadside like this. That’s why I come very early and leave before the arrival of the task force. So I witnessed the live event,” she says.

“A bus passenger told us that men of the task force had been chasing their vehicle from Super (an area within Iyana Brown axis). It was not even the white coaster bus that hit and killed the young man. It was the vehicle driven by task force officers coming behind that hit him beside the culvert.”

The woman, otherwise known as ‘Iya Paso’, refrained from talking at first but called on the reporter later, saying: “That could have been me but I survived it unscathed. It was my conscience that pricked me when you asked.”

The woman’s words found basis with the content in a short video at 6:13 am shared on Twitter by another eyewitness, Sunday Emeka whose handle is @SeaJustified.

“Task Force at Oshodi did this just now. They were struggling steering wheel with a white coaster bus. Four people were on the ground. I manage to video this before the hoodlums snatch my phone,” he captioned his 11-second long video.

In the video, the people were inaudibly chanting: “Taskforce! Taskforce! All this madness they are doing… May they be unfortunate”, as some try to flag down moving vehicles down for rescue.

POLICE DENIAL

This video, which stood as the only post-accident evidence, didn’t go viral like that of Adewale Alaka, the cousin of the deceased, who filmed his version roughly an hour after.

Adewale was however forced to delete the videos and pictures after “an anonymous” account reported his tweets. He was subsequently suspended from social media for 12 hours. 

By that time, he could not lay his hands on Emeka’s tweet, which was the firsthand proof of their case before the police.

Though deleted, FIJ recovered all of Adewale’s contents using Wayback Machine, a sophisticated fact-checking tool.

Screenshot of Adewale’s deleted but recovered tweets
Screenshot of Adewale’s deleted but recovered tweets

Efforts made to trace the hospital that treated the other victims werefruitless.

In a press statement signed by CSP Shola Jejeloye, the Chairman of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Unit (Task Force), the authority denied any involvement in the accident.

Jejeloye labelled the viral contents on social media as “falsely reported”.

“Early this morning, a commercial bus driver was illegally loading passengers by the roadside in Oshodi and, on noticing the presence of a Lagos Task Force vehicle, took off recklessly at a high speed, knocking down the innocent young man who was trying to cross the Oshodi Expressway,” the statement read.

“Despite warnings and enlightenment campaigns about the dangers of violating traffic laws, commercial drivers have continued to flout the law and put the lives of commuters at risk. This violation of the law led to the death that occurred in Oshodi.”

However, Emeka, who particularly took the video at the scene and tweeted, refuted the reaction of the Task Force. “Nobody was trying to cross to the other side of the road,” he insisted. “The young man and other three were waiting at the pedestrian before the car ran into them.”

The press release signed by the CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, aligned with the Task Force’s.

But, according to a police report entered by Inspector Abraham Momoh and later obtained by FIJ, a commercial bus driver trying to evade the task force “hit  one person and as a result the person died”.

Neither the statement by the task force nor the one by police corresponds with what multiple eyewitnesses and family members told FIJ.

While the press statements were claiming the task force was not involved in the “hit and run accident”, eyewitnesses repeatedly affirmed that an informant of the task force was struggling for the control of the weels with a driver thought to have broken traffic laws elsewhere.

Also, the statements by the task force said there were three victims: two injured and one, Damilare, dying. Akinpelu Division of the police said something entirely different; they claimed one person was hit.

Eyewitnesses said four people were hit and Damilare, who died immediately, was one of them.

While statements insisted deceased Damilare was trying to cross the road before he was hit, family members argued Damilare would not have had a reason to cross the road since he was going to Ajah.

Emeka, who was going to Victoria Island, also said “no one was trying to cross”. “We were all waiting on the walkway for buses to come,” he said.

Someone who identified himself as Olamilekan ‘Oga nla’ also confirmed the culpability of the task force in the incident. Just like previous witnesses, he confirmed that the driver of the white coaster bus and the informant of the task struggled for control of the wheels.

“He mounted the culvert but didn’t hit the pedestrians. It was the paragon bus that had been hijacked by the officials and driven by one of them that mistakenly ran over the young man and others who were all waiting for their own buses,” he explained.

“What these task force officials do is that they hijack a public vehicle because they know their vans are identifiable by drivers and can be evaded.”

PROFILE OF A FATHERLESS CAREGIVER

Damilare’s death means a lot to his family and friends. When members of his old boys’ club in the neighborhood learnt of the incident, they joined family members in a green-coloured Sienna car conveying his bloodied corpse to the Lagos State Task Force office in Bolade, Oshodi and the Akinpelu Police station.

The deceased was known as a calm, fine gentleman to the core who did not deserve to die in cold blood.

“He doesn’t drink nor smoke. He doesn’t have any tattoo on his body, to tell you how much he lives within his humble means”, says Mary, the wife of Damilare’s first male elder brother, Tunde Adesubokan.

Born and bred in Oshodi, he attended Command Children School at Charity area and had his secondary education at Unity Secondary School in the same area. He live his close to three decades of life in Lagos.

He couldn’t further his education because he as the last born, he was saddled with the responsibility of watching over his ailing mother, who became a widow when he was barely three.

“He could have been a Yahoo boy,” Adewale, his cousin, wrote in his note of grief, “but he chose the path of dignity”.

“I could not handle the heartbreak and pain. I disabled sensitive content. I can’t even view my post,” he said. “I never thought a day like this would come. He is the only one helping his mother. He was a bricklayer going to site this morning.”

When he is not on site as a bricklayer, he is at the shop to help his mother out.

“I cannot walk again. It is the money he makes outside that we both spend. Now, they have taken away my last support system, the aged woman sobbed

CHOKED IN DEATH

At around noon on that day, Adewale’s father, a Muslim cleric, Alhaji Alaka, invited an Imam to perform burial rites on the remains of Damilare. Damilare, being a Christian himself, was given a Christian sendoff moments later.

The two services were brief.  To prevent the mother from witnessing any of the two funerals of his son, she was relocated to the residence of her first son, Sola Adesumbokan, in Ilaje, Bariga. 

‘NO IMMUNITY FOR TASKFORCE TO COMMIT MANSLAUGHTER

Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer, condemned the excesses of Lagos State Task Force, stating that these law enforcers also need to be held accountable for wrongdoings in the discharge of their duties.

“If a motorist flouts traffic laws, the police or the task force have the right to arrest and if he tries to resist by running, they can pursue him. What is however important is the manner of pursuit,” he said.

“If they kill any road user as a result of overspeeding or negligent driving, it is manslaughter, which is a criminal offence. There is no immunity for task force officials who engage in the pursuit of a fleeing traffic law violator and hit a third party or innocent bystander to death.”

To curb their arbitrary arrest and several impunities, “there has to be some sort of accountability within the Lagos State Task Force”, he added.

“When such an incident leads to loss of lives, the case should be duly investigated by the police and taken to court for adjudication”, he added. 

‘AUDIO’ INVESTIGATION ON CP’S ORDERS

While exonerating the Task Force from any involvement of the accident, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu ,ordered the DPO of Akinpelu Division to work with independent observers and eyewitnesses in the area to trace and bring the culprit to book.

Nothing has been heard of the investigation ever since.

FIJ subsequently confirmed that the chairman of the Task Force, CSP Shola Jejeloye, tried to silence the family of Damilare.

In a meeting he hosted in his office on Sunday, January 31, he handed N250,000 cash over to the elder brother of the deceased, Tunde Adesubokan, and Saheed Adewale, one of the major protesters, claiming it was a “gift” from his “personal pocket” to the family. Adesubokan first collected the money. However, after protestations by other members of the family, the money was returned.

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Published 12th Feb, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi

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