Chiemelie Ezeobi and Sunday Ehigiator
Six persons, including three policemen, were Monday feared dead as protesters flooded the streets of Shagamu, Ogun State, to register their grouse over the death of Kazeem Tiamiyu, a footballer, by officials of the Zonal Intervention Squad (ZIS) of the state.
Tiamiyu, a player with Remo Star Football Club, was killed on Saturday, after policemen attached to ZIS arrested him on allegations of being a fraudster.
The deceased was knocked down by an oncoming vehicle while being taken to Abeokuta by the cops whose vehicle developed fault on the road and was parked for repairs.
The Ogun State Police Command initially tried to downplay the tragic incident, a move that enraged the residents and made them stage a protest on Monday.
The protest began on a peaceful note as the residents carried placards and green leaves demanding the scrapping of the unit responsible, until the police were deployed to stop them.
Spraying teargas and shooting live bullets at the teeming crowd, about three persons were reportedly gunned down while others sustained injuries as they attempted to flee.
In retaliation, the angry mob were said to have targeted some policemen and allegedly killed them, just as they attempted to burn a police station, a move that was aborted by the cops. THISDAY could not independently confirm the death toll.
The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) in charge of Zone II, comprising Lagos and Ogun States, Ahmed Iliyasu, while condemning the incident that led to Tiamiyu’s death, assured that the matter would be duly investigated.
He warned that officers found wanting in the discharge of their police duties would be sanctioned appropriately.
Commiserating with the family of the deceased footballer, Remo natives and Ogun State in general, Iliyasu sued for calm, adding that the cops involved were already undergoing orderly room trial.
He said: “I will not tolerate any act of indiscipline, unprofessionalism, indolence and disregards to human rights and the rule of law by officers and men of the two commands under my watch.
“We assure all citizens of the two states continuous protection of life and property as enshrined in all our extant laws.“
The state Police Commissioner, Kenneth Ebrimson, however denied that the policemen opened fire on protesters, insisting that the cops resisted the use of force despite provocation from miscreants who took advantage of the protest.
He said: “Not a single bullet was fired by policemen. I am in Sagamu as I speak to you. We have since addressed the protesters and calmed them down. They dispersed quietly. What happened is that some miscreants tried to take opportunity of the protest to cause trouble in the state.
“They were the ones who tried to burn down the police station but we dispersed them. We did not fire any shot despite the provocation from them. We know some people were trying to push the police to the wall so that they will say see what has happened.
“ That was why there was strict instruction on the men not to use force. We have taken control of the situation. The responsible protesters were addressed and assured that the team that arrested the footballer was already in detention and undergoing internal disciplinary actions.
“We did not arrest anyone because as it is, we are applying diplomacy to avoid escalating issues. We have said it before that the policemen that arrested him are not SARS operatives. They were of the Zonal Intervention Squad and have been arrested.”