As of 8am on Monday, Mrs Olufunke Odebiyi had yet to know that her son, Kolade Johnson, had been killed by operatives of the Special Anti-Cultism Squad of the Lagos State Police Command.
In her usual routine, she 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.”
His stepbrother, Boluwade Awakan, who was in custody of Kolade’s phone after he was killed, said he was heartbroken when the message came in and he had to call family members to break the news to their mother.
PUNCH Metro had reported that some SACS operatives, on Sunday, stormed Olu Aboderin Street in the Onipetesi area of Lagos while the victim was watching a live English Premiership League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
The operatives were said to have arrested a man, identified simply as Ismail, who was said to be seeing off his girlfriend to the bus stop, but residents protested against the arrest.
One of the operatives allegedly shot in the air to disperse the crowd, but a bullet hit Kolade where he stood and before he could be rushed to hospital, he gave up the ghost.
Speaking with our correspondent on Monday, Awakan, said, “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 4pm 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 9am 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.”
Awakan urged the Lagos State Police Command to identify the officers and ensure that justice was served.
Meanwhile, 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.”
The senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Gbenga Ashafa, also condemned the killing on his Twitter handle.
He wrote, “I just received with sadness, information of the unfortunate killing of Mr Kolade Johnson by a stray bullet from the men of the Anti-Cultism Unit of the @PoliceNG. My deepest condolences to his family and friends in this tough period of grief.
“I’m yet to get information on the circumstances that led to sporadic shooting by men of @PoliceNG. However, the safety of the law-abiding members of the society is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. We would ensure that such incidences are not swept under the carpet. #Koladejohnson.”
A Twitter user with the username, @Ovieali, said, “Nigeria Police that should be protecting people in Zamfara, are busy terrorising innocent boys. The last time they asked SARS to join the fight against Boko Haram, they cried that it is unfair because they are not trained. We need to #EndSARS because your brother might be next.”
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.”