Tragedy struck on the last day of March, 2019 after Kolade Johnson, 36, was alleged to have been hit by a bullet fired by a Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS official.
Speaking about the incident, the deceased’s friend, Dennis Ikpoba, revealed that people had gathered around the officers while they attempted to arrest one Ismail Folorunsho who appeared to have been unfairly targeted by the law enforcement officers who arrived the scene in an unpainted Danfo bus.
According to an eyewitness who spoke to NAN, Kolade was one of the people who gathered to assure the officers of Folorunsho’s innocence when they shot to disperse the crowd. Dennis narrated;
“In an attempt to disperse the crowd, a first shot was fired to the ground. Seeing this, I and the others quickly turned back to avoid trouble, but because Kolade was probably the last person in the crowd, he was shot point blank from behind.
He didn’t even know he was shot till we had trekked some few metres before we all saw he was bleeding, he died on his way to the hospital at Ikeja”.
They came to arrest a guy that had dreadlocks and then shot sporadically after arresting the guy with the dreads. And hit this guy watching football pic.twitter.com/gHkve6PH3N
— Nwakibie Chris (@francs008) March 31, 2019
As of 8 am on Monday, April 1, the mother of the deceased, Olufunke Odebiyi had yet to know that her son had been killed.
According to reports, Mrs Olufunke in her usual routine, sent a message to all her children, including Kolade, on Monday to wish them good tidings for the new month, not knowing that Kolade had been killed the previous evening.
The message, which was made available to PUNCH Metro read,
“May Almighty God clothe your days with favour and divine upliftment now and beyond. May he be your shield and protect all that he has given to you. God will mark you and your family out of danger and untimely death. You will enjoy the full benefit of God.
You will never sow your seeds for birds to eat. Rejoice for victory has found you and your household and it shall be good news in your family this week and beyond in Jesus Mighty name I pray. Amen. Good morning. Remain blessed and have a fruitful day. Jesus is Lord…….Shalom.”
Boluwade Awakan, Kolade’s stepbrother, who was in custody of his phone after he was killed, says he was heartbroken when the message came in and he had to call family members to break the news to their mother. Awakan, also narrated,
“I was coming from Iyana Ipaja on Sunday when I encountered traffic from Mangoro and my elder sister, who Kolade was staying with, called me that something happened to him and I told her that I was on my way and she told me to meet her at the general hospital.
Because of the traffic, I alighted from the bus and started trekking down till I got to the scene of the incident and I heard people saying that something happened to Kolade and my sister called me again to tell me that he was dead.
When I got to the mortuary, his friend, who rushed him to the hospital, said Kolade left the house around 4 pm to watch the football match at the Kingston Jo eatery and he was there until a man on dreadlocks who was seeing off his girlfriend was accosted by some police officers, who were patrolling the expressway.
The people around knew the man on dreadlocks, so they came out to prevent the officers from taking him away because the policemen were not in uniform and nobody knew they were police officers. Kolade also came out but he stood far from where the crowd gathered.
The officers were trying to scare away the crowd by shooting in the air and a stray bullet hit Kolade where he stood. When I checked his corpse at the morgue I saw where the bullet pierced his hand into his body.
We informed our mother of the incident this morning around 9 am with the help of some family members and she didn’t take it kindly, because she had sent a message to everyone this morning and Kolade’s phone was with me when the message was delivered.”
The bereaved father of the deceased, Alhaji Remi Lukman, in another interview with Punch had narrated how an officer who declared he must kill someone when his team stormed the viewing center that day, eventually killed his son. Alhaji Lukman said;
”My son was murdered here on Sunday March 31st at about 4.30pm by the Anti-cultism team of police officers. I don’t want anybody framing things up.
What I really needed was two things. One was immediate, the other procedurally. The immediate one is police report which will enable the mortuary to collect the corpse. The second one which is procedurally is justice over the death of my son. I want those responsible to be fished out and be brought to book.
All these boys being killed are all youths, they all have potentials. These are the tomorrow of Nigeria. If you just decided willfully after making a statement that you are going to kill somebody here today and you actually killed somebody.
That was the statement that came out from the mouth of the officer that fired the shot. Thereafter he shot in the air and two stray bullets directed at the crowd, then we need a more organized police force.
We need a police force that will put the interest of the citizens at heart We need a police force that will dutifully handle their job. We need a police force that will add to the progress of youths, not the one that will be killing them like the one that happened on Sunday.
I want the men to be brought to book I want them to be brought to justice. I want them to be giving the justice that is due”.
However, Nigerians, including celebrities, have taken to the social media to condemn Kolade’s death, urging the Federal Government to scrap all the units under the police force.
Their outrage came under various trending hashtags, including, #JuisticeforKola #EndSARS #EndSACS #EndSAKS #PoliceReforms #EndPolicebrutality and #ReformPoliceNG.
Nollywood actress, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, while condemning the killing on her Twitter handle, said,
“SARS can just decide to walk the streets of this country, kill anybody and get away with it? Are you freaking kidding me? What the hell is going on? How is this a country…that has a government? #endsars #justiceforkola.”
The Country Director, Development Alternatives Incorporated, Joe Abah, said,
“Being young is not a crime. Having dreadlocks is not a crime. Sagging your jeans is not a crime. Having tattoos and piercings is not a crime.
“The big crime is the police harassing and killing the innocent youth they are paid to protect, and nobody stopping them. #EndSARS.”
Musician and songwriter, Simi, wrote on her Twitter handle,
“An innocent person dying because of the recklessness of an organisation that only exists cos of lack of value. They do not care. At all! I’m actually fed up. I’m tired. @MBuhari pls let someone pay for this. Pls, they can’t keep doing this to your people and getting away with it.”
However, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, said in a statement that members of the team involved in Kolade’s shooting were now in custody. He said,
“On March 31, 2019, around 5.05pm, the command received a distress call that the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway had been blocked by some angry youths, who were protesting the shooting of one Kolade Johnson of No. 1 Beco Street, Onipetesi, Mangoro bus stop, by a team of policemen from the Anti-Cultism Unit.
A team of policemen from the Rapid Response Squad and Metro Patrol was promptly drafted to the scene. The account of eyewitnesses helped in identifying the team, which fled the scene immediately after the incident.
Members of the team suspected to be involved in the shooting have since been arrested and are currently in police custody undergoing interrogation. They will be subjected to internal disciplinary procedures and may be prosecuted in conventional court if implicated by the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Zubairu Mu’azu, calls for calm, assuring all that justice will prevail in this case. The Commissioner of Police also condoles with the family, friends and well-wishers of Kolade Johnson.
The CP has promised to initiate far-reaching reforms to help in repositioning the Anti-Cultism Squad for effective service delivery, particularly in areas of respect for human rights and proficiency in the use of firearms.”
The police later identified Kolade’s killers as Inspector Olalekan Ogunyemi and Sergeant Godwin Orji both attached to the Anti-Cultism Squad.