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 chief coroner’s call
The public announcement, published in The PUNCH and 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 worn out 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.
“I have seven children, one was sick and died of her sickness. At least, I know the cause of her death and she had children; but they killed this one for me in his prime, when I was supposed to eat the fruit of my labour.”
Sunday’s sister, Mosunmola Ogunfowora, told our correspondent that efforts made by the family to console their mother had been in vain.
“She cries every day. We are sad. Sunday was a gentle and easy-going person but it is unfortunate that this has happened. Our father died a year ago and now, we have lost our brother, Mosunmola said while she fought back tears.
From hospitals to Police stations
Also, another woman who identified herself as Ngozi Ojukwu said she had been in search of her nephew, Chinedu Agbasielo.
Ojukwu said Agbasielo was a victim of the #EndSARS protest at Ikotun area of Lagos.
She said the 28-year-old phone repairer ran for his dear life when he heard gunshots but he has not been found since October 20, 2020.
“Since then, nobody has given us any useful information if he was killed or apprehended by the Police.
“I have been looking for him, what I have been going through has been a sad and painful experience for a month now,” she said.
Ojukwu said she and other relations had been to several hospitals and Police Stations before coming to LASUTH, but they had been unable to locate Agbasielo, dead or alive.
“I have been to many places, including the Police station. I asked people who informed me that the dead and the injured were taken to Isolo Hospital.
I went to the hospital, checked their record, checked the emergency unit but we didn’t find him,” the distressed lady said.
Continuing, she said, “I went to the mortuary at Yaba with his picture and phone number, no luck. However, when I called the mortuary people at Yaba this morning (Friday morning), they referred us to LASUTH.
“We are here at LASUTH and they said there’s nobody that looks like him here, after showing them his picture.
“They said the #EndSARS dead bodies are not here. They said we could check Ikorodu Hospital or Lagos Island Hospital.”
Ojukwu said, so far, it had been days of pain, agony and sleepless nights for the family.
“Just imagine how his mother will feel. His number isn’t going through. We have been going out in search of him every day. We go to any clinic, mortuary, police station in search of him.
“We have been to IDH Yaba; Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba; Isolo General Hospital; Igando hospital; and Ojo hospital. We have been to many places. No one is giving us any useful information,” she said.
Another round of waiting
Meanwhile, the distraught relatives of the missing persons still have more days of waiting to observe, as they have been told to return to LASUTH on Monday, to complete some form that they will take to the IDH, Yaba, where they will be allowed to identify and claim bodies of their missing relations on Tuesday.
One of Sunday Ogunfoworas relations, Olatokunbo, told our correspondent, “They gave us some documents and said we should come back on Monday to fill a form that we will take to IDH on Tuesday for the identification of the corpse. We have been assured that we will get the corpse on Tuesday.
“Mama has been crying since. She had high hopes that Sunday’s corpse will be released today (Friday), but we have been trying to calm her down because it is too late to give up now since we have come this far.”
LASUTH has nothing to do with corpses —CMD
Speaking with our correspondent, the Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo, said the hospital did not have anything to do with the corpses.
“It only happens that the private mortuary that is serving us is located in LASUTH.
“Also, the Chief Medical Examiner for the state who is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice about the case of the bodies, happens to be one of our pathologists here.
“So, as a CMD, I do not have any direct dealing with that,” Fabamwo said.
He also said the corpses were not in the hospital.
“I don’t know how many bodies there were in total, but I know that the bodies are not here. I know that the bodies are in Yaba IDH,” he said.
From Healthwise Punch here.