The recuperating victim corroborated the driver’s account. “Policemen chased me and I ran into an oncoming car. It wasn’t the driver’s fault,” he says.
As far as the police were concerned, it was an open-and-close case. There was an alleged hit-and-kill driver, an unresponsive body and a witness. In the aftermath of the ghastly accident at Iyana Iba, Lagos on Saturday, November 24, 2018, which left the casualty, Emmanuel Abiodun Oluwabamise lifeless, the driver of a Toyota RAV 4, Taye Olajiga, an Immigration Officer was detained at the Iba Police Station with a murder charge staring him in the face.
To worsen the situation, the victim remained comatose for two days. However, the immigration officer insisted a group of policemen, not him was to blame for the mishap. In a circumstance where the truth comes down to his word against the police’s, only God can help him. As Nigerians say, he was “on his own.”
Fortunately, the casualty came back to life on the third day, and his account of the accident was a denouement that changed the tenor of the situation.
On the fifth day, when Saturday Sun located the recuperating victim at Oyibo hospital, he corroborated the driver’s account. “Policemen chased me and I ran into an oncoming car. It wasn’t the driver’s fault,” he says.
His testimony cast the policemen in a bad light as a group of rogue officers, who after an illegal operation has gone wrong, descended so low as to frame an innocent citizen for the death of another.
The frame up
“When I saw the boy lying with his blood soaking the ground around him, I was scared. He was seriously wounded,” says Taye Olajiga, an official of the Nigeria Immigration Service with the Seme Border Patrol Unit. “I knew whoever chased him must not go free.”
He had driven from his home from the Badagry suburb that fateful day “to deliver a bag of rice to a driver at Iyana Iba to convey to my father-in-law in Ibadan.”
With him in his car were his wife and two other senior colleagues going to Alaba International Market along the route.
“A few metres to my destination, I saw three policemen chasing two young men on the other side of the road. One of the fleeing boys dashed wildly across the road and he narrowly missed being hit by a car. The second one tried to follow him too, and he slammed straight into my car. The momentum lifted him high and he hit the ground hard. I stopped the car and quickly rushed to check him. I found him lifeless. A crowd quickly gathered, and they warned me not to allow the policeman to go otherwise I would be held responsible for his death. I started running after the policeman and when I caught up with him, we started struggling. His colleagues came around and realized that I am an Immigration officer. The policemen––one inspector and two sergeants––asked me to board their bus so we would go back to the scene of the accident. They drove on instead to their station at Iba.”
In the comfort zone of their office, the policemen placated the agitated immigration officer, including, according to him, the station’s Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) whom he claimed, “told me to calm down that the matter will be settled as soon as the DPO is here.”
DPO Gbenga Ogunsakin upon arrival ushered him into his office. “He told me he has been briefed about the incident. He said we should bother first about the state of health of the casualty. He subsequently left me in his office for a long time,” Olajiga recounts.
Unknown to him, the policemen went to work. Minutes later, the DPO reentered his office with a young man in tow. Olajiga recognized him as the other boy that successfully dashed across the road and escaped the clutch of the pursuing policemen at Iyana Iba.
And the story changed.
“The DPO asked the boy to give his account of the incident. To my surprise, he claimed I hit them with my car just as they were dismounting from the bike.”
In his state of shock, he knew what was coming next––and its nasty implication.
“I broke into tears,” he says. “The DPO ordered that I should be detained.”
His colleague notified their office about the situation, while he called his lawyer.
The response from his lawyer––“Your fate depends on the condition of the boy in question”––put him through the most harrowing 48 hours of his life.
Luckily, the boy regained consciousness after two days in a coma. A day later, he regained his memory. It was helpful that he has a total recall.
His story exonerated the beleaguered immigration officer.
“That saved me from a conspiracy by policemen to put me in a spot over a crime they were responsible for,” says the relieved officer, who was released by 4 pm the next day having been detained since 11 am of November 24. The police, however, refused to release his impounded car.
Truth according to the resuscitated victim
Though he survived, Emmanuel Abiodun Oluwabamise is in a bad shape. On the afternoon of Thursday, November 29, when Saturday Sun located his hospital, the 19-year-old was a catalogue of broken bones, including scapula, collarbone and humerus (upper arm). A head injury that led to a temporary loss of memory, a long, deep fissure in the small of the back close to his spinal cord, multiple lacerations and several bruises from head to foot were some of the wounds on his body.
Oluwabamise, who works at Segulux Paints in Ibatedo, says he was heading to Iyana Iba from Iba Housing Estate, in the company of his friend, Junior, when some policemen accosted them.
“I was going to Alaba International market to withdraw some money from the bank. As we were dismounting from a bike at LASU Post Office, a Korope bus parked close to us. The policemen cocked their guns and asked us to get inside their bus. We took to our heels. One policeman chased me while the other two went after my friend. I ran blindly. I dashed across the road, straight at oncoming traffic in front of LASU gate. The last thing I remember was that I was in the air. When I woke up (yesterday) I was surprised to hear that the day was Wednesday.”
He was patched up at an initial cost of N60,000. Additional N300,000 is required to fix his fractured arm and the grave wound close to his spinal cord.
Ten days after the incident, the hospital bill has become astronomical, a burden shouldered solely by the family.
On December 4, Olajiga who provided the sum of N25, 000, says: “I want the boy to be all right. His life is more paramount to me than dragging any issue with the police.”
Nonetheless, he avows that the policemen ought to assume responsibility for the hospital bill and his damaged car. “If they had not chased the boy, there wouldn’t be this problem,” he says.
The police wahala
On their part, policemen from the Iba Station had been to the hospital twice. Once when the victim was unconscious, a second time to interrogate the victim days after he regained consciousness.
The victim was also visited by his friend, Junior, who offered an apology for his spurious account that implicated the immigration officer.
“He claimed he was coerced into giving a false statement by the policemen who cornered him and threatened him with cocked guns,” says a neighbour who preferred anonymity.
On why the boys ran instead of obeying the policemen in the first instance, the source adds: “In this part of the city, the fear of policemen is the beginning of wisdom. It is part of the police culture in the Iba axis, that when they stop you, they extort money from you. If you have an ATM card, they will take you to the ATM machine and withdraw money from your account. Therefore, any reasonable young man who knows what was coming will naturally take to his heels.”
Saturday Sun was still awaiting the response of Lagos State Command Police Public Relations Office, Otti Chike at the time of going to press.