Family members who suspect that their loved ones were victims of the #ENDSARS protest outcomes have lamented the anguish and pain they have been experiencing as they search for them in Police stations, hospitals and mortuaries in Lagos State.
Our correspondent observed that anxious relatives trooped to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, with the hope of locating their missing relations if they are still alive; or to have the opportunity to identify and claim their bodies if they are dead.
This is even as the Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo, said the hospital had nothing to do with the corpses and that the hospital’s name only came into the picture because the mortuary is located in LASUTH premises.
The relatives who spoke with our correspondent at LASUTH said they were at the state government-owned facility sequel to the call made by the Chief Coroner of Lagos State, Justice M.A. Dada, on Wednesday,November 18, asking relations of missing persons to contact the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine at LASUTH for possible identification of corpses of missing persons.
The public announcement was directed at “those who have lost loved ones between October 19 and 27, 2020.”
The #ENDSARS started as a social media protest on Saturday, October 3 and soon became a street protest in Lagos on October 7, with several states of the federation joining within days.
The protest was hijacked as persons suspected to be hoodlums seized the opportunity to loot private and public facilities, while some government structures, including Police stations, were torched.
As hoodlums took advantage of the hitherto peaceful protests, reports of Police intervention became rife, with relatives and friends of missing persons claiming that their loved ones had either been killed or arrested.
The most controversial of such security operatives’ intervention was the Lekki Toll Gate incident of October 20, where scores of unarmed #ENDSARS protesters had allegedly been killed.
The Lagos State coroner’s call
The public announcement, published in The PUNCHand titled, ‘Coroner’s call for the identification of missing persons,’ and signed by Office of the Chief Coroner, Lagos State, urged concerned people to proceed to the Department of Pathology and Forensic Medicine at LASUTH for the identification exercise of “the deceased.”
The public announcement promised that after due scientific identification, the remains of “the deceased shall be released to the next-of-kin for burial.”
The public notice did not state if the victims’ deaths were related to the fallout of #EndSARS protest, however.
From Gbagada, to Yaba, to Ikeja
Some of the relatives who spoke with our correspondent on Friday said they were wornout by the search for their missing loved ones.
Narrating her experience, a 73-year-old woman, Mrs. Adijatu Ogunfowora, whose son, Sunday Adeyemi Ogunfowora, was allegedly killed at Ifako, Gbagada, Lagos, said it had been days of sleeplessness for her.
Thirty-eight-year-old Sunday was a footballer for Gbagada Football Club, relatives said; and he was allegedly killed by Police stray bullet on October 15, 2020 during a protest in his street.
Recalling the incident, Nicol Olatokunbo, who is an in-law to Sunday, lamented how the family had been referred, endlessly, from the Police station at Gbagada to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, in search of the deceased.
“On that day, October 15, 2020, there was a protest on his street and he was just passing by and stray bullets from the Police hit him.
“The Police at Ifako Police Station were said to have gone away with his corpse and when we got there, they said there was no corpse there again and that all the corpses had been taken to the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.
“On getting to IDH, we searched for him and saw his corpse, but they didn’t release the corpse to us because they said the government had not asked them to take any steps on the corpses there. But we kept going there.
“Luckily for us, they called us from IDH last week Monday and they said the government had asked them to release the corpses concerning the #EndSARS protest.
“Before now, we had been coming to LASUTH. This is going to be the third time that we would be coming here (LASUTH) in search of our corpse.
“However, we are hopeful that we will be given the corpse soon. We have been assured by one of the directors here that we will get the corpse.
“We have been here for four hours. Hopefully, when we are done here, we will be allowed to claim the corpse at the IDH,” Olatokunbo said.
Sunday’s teary 73-year-old mother said, “Sunday is my life, it’s time for him to take care of me but they have killed him for me.
“I just want the government to give me my son; I have been restless. I just want them to give me my son so I can bury him.
“God gave him to me and He has taken him. I have handed over everything to God,” she said in tears.
Continuing, the Ogun State indigene said, “The government should not punish me. It was the Monday before he died that I saw him last. He didn’t fight, he didn’t look for trouble.
“They killed my son despite voting for the government. Yet, we are APC card-carrying members. We are in WARD B at Bariga, I have four of my children in that WARD B.
“I want them to give me my son so I can bury him. I pray his soul rest in place.”