By Chiemelie Ezeobi
One year ago, it was a black Tuesday for the Nigeria Police when a skirmish with soldiers from the 242 Reccee Battalion, Ibereko Military Barracks, Badagry, Lagos State, claimed three of its officers; the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Samuel Salihu, a chief superintendent of police (CSP); the Divisional Crime Officer, Samson Okedusi, a superintendent of police (SP)â€ˆand the Operations Officer, Afolabi Taofeek, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP), who went to the Army Barracks on a peace mission.
That was precisely on May 24, 2011. They never came out of the mission alive. Remember the incident?
One year after, THISDAY went in search of the family of the slain cops, to see what has become of them.
Sadly, THISDAY found that not even the passage of time had deadened the pain in the minds of the family members.
As the story was then told, some police officers attached to the Badagry Police Division had allegedly shot at a soldier who had refused to stop at a checkpoint. In a reprisal attack, soldiers declared war on the police and in quick succession; three police officers were gunned down.
The sad incident occurred as the DPO and his DCO and other operatives from the division were heading towards the army barracks to make peace with the former Commanding Officer of Ibereko Battalion, Colonel Nabasa.
The lone survivor of the attack, ASP Afolabi Taofeek, was said to have given up the ghost the next morning due to the severe wounds he got from the gunshots.
Prior to his death, the 44-year old father of four had recounted the details of how they were attacked by some men in army uniform
Surprisingly, a year after the incident, no one has been brought to book despite a panel of inquiry instituted by the Nigerian Army. Many wondered if it was because the then IG Hafiz Ringim had absolved the Army of any guilt.
Ringim had said the clash between the police and the Army at the Badagry area of the Lagos State resulting in the death of three senior police officers had been addressed.
Both the Police and Army authorities had resolved at the time, to conduct a joint inquest into the incident. One year after, it is not known if the inquest was ever made, or what was ever found out, if it held
Mrs. Omotayo Okedusi, the widow of the late DCO lamented that her husband had already finished his Superintendent of Police course and was just awaiting the final conferment of the rank before he met his untimely death
Before his death, theirs was a picturesque love affair which spanned 30 years, the first 14 as engaged couples and the remaining 16 years as married couple.
Admitting that she was at her tethers end, the 51-year-old widow who has become the breadwinner to 12 persons in the household, lamented that they were yet to receive any of the entitlements of the deceased, one year after.
According to her, “It’s now a year since my husband met his untimely death and despite the promises made to us by the police, we are yet to receive a dime of what rightfully should be ours. After 34 years, seven months of service to this nation, this is the way he was paid back. The most painful thing is that he was to retire in October of the same year but he was murdered in May.”
Recalling the moving tale of her last moments with her murdered husband, she said: “That fateful morning, I had prepared tea for my husband to drink but he suddenly got a call from the DPO who summoned him to the station. So, he requested that I poured the tea into a flask for him to take to the office and he left for work.”
In an emotion-laden voice, Okedusi said she had no premonition about her husband’s death that fateful day.
At first, she said she was befuddled as to the pastor’s claim because she knew how sharply neat the deceased was.
However, when the pastor insisted that a fresh set of clothing be given to him for the deceased, her instincts struck a tragic note inside her. And the rest is now history, but kept enthusing, “I thank God I did not run mad.
“I was once called to Ikeja where the sum of N1million was given to each of the three families from the state Governor, Babatunde Fashola. When I got my share, I divided it equally between myself and the woman that had kids for my husband before we got married.”
She lamented that despite all the promises made to the family, nothing had come out of it and she had to borrow money to bury the deceased.
Traumatised by the experience, Okedusi swore that none of her children would ever join the police force, “the answer is a categorical no! How can I allow that to happen after the way their father was treated? They made it look like it was a crime for Daddy to have served the Police force.”
But the family of the late Okedusi is yet bitter that the case seems to have been swept under the carpet. The late DCO’s brother, Dr. Michael Okedusi, insisted that all that the family needs is for justice to be meted out to the perpetrators of the dastardly act. He pleaded with the government to set up a judicial commission of inquiry into the brutal killings.
When contacted about the outcome of the board of inquiry set up by the Army to fish out the culprits, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Kenneth Minimah, said it was best to let sleeping dogs lie arguing that rehashing the issue could re-open old wounds.
In a telephone conversation with the Acting Force Public Relations Officer (AFPRO), Frank Mba, said the non-payment of the gratuity can be blamed on the current pension fund scam rocking the country. “Asides that, there is always the problem of documentation. Some of these officers do not regularly update their documentation because they do not envisage death.
“We have this African mentality that we do not expect death so some of these officers do not update their documentation regularly indicating changes in their ranks and positions or next of kin. So when death happens, problems of paying their gratuity crops up.”
Mba added: “Sometimes when these officers join the force, their next of kin may be their brothers and then they get married and change it to their wives. Soon again, they change it to their children but neglect to update their documentation regularly with each change.”