#MySARSStory: Innocent Blood

WHEN Tolulope married her husband, it was the happiest moment of her life. She was excited to be on the journey of forever with her best friend.

But her joy was short-lived.

Her husband, Olusegun Openiyi, was shot and killed by men of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police.

Tolulope’s life derailed when she heard about her husband’s death. What was she to do with a two-month-old baby and another two-year-old child? How was she to live without her companion, friend and partner? This new reality almost destroyed her.


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“The pain was too much to bear,” she says. “I was 31 years old, and was early in my marriage, which was then just two years and two months old.”

Her husband, Olusegun, was killed on his way to work on August 20, 2007. Fourteen years on, Tolulope’s grief remains raw. She still cries whenever her husband’s name is mentioned.

“He was a caring father,” she says fondly, “a caring husband, a lovely brother and a good son.”

How he was killed

Olusegun, who was 34, died of multiple gunshot wounds.

As his widow remembers, he was killed at the entrance of the University of Lagos, where he was going for a product activation. He worked with the defunct Econet telecommunication – now Airtel.

“They killed my son,” says Micheal Adebola Openiyi, Olusegun’s father. “SARS killed my son.”

Micheal Adebola Openiyi
Micheal Adebola Openiyi, Olusegun’s father

The senior Openiyi is 71 and has a face that carries the weight of his life’s experiences. He is a retired soldier.

“I would not have been suffering like this if he were alive,” he says. “He was the breadwinner.”

He remembers the day he was told his son had been gunned down. The DPO of Sabo Police Station, Samuel Olukayode, broke the news to him.

Olusegun had been shot by a policeman, whose name the DPO gave as Sergeant Jide Akintola. Akintola had apparently mistaken Olusegun for an armed robber.

“They shot his tyre first,” the senior Openiyi remembers. “They opened the door of his Hilux van and shot him twice at the right-hand side of his chest.”

“The DPO told us to go and see the corpse of my late son at Lagos General Hospital mortuary. When I got there, I was told there was no Olusegun Openiyi in the morgue, but that the police from Sabo Station had brought a corpse that had been tagged as unknown.”

When they brought out the corpse, the senior Openiyi recognised it.

It was his son.

Olusegun Openiyi
Olusegun Openiyi

Seeking justice

He wrote multiple letters to the Nigerian Police Force, seeking justice but got no response.






     

     

    The lead counsel representing the force at the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry claimed he got no response because it was not the police who killed Olusegun.

    “I put it to you that the IGP did not respond to your letter because it was not the police who killed your son,” the police lawyer said.

    But the senior Openiyi disagrees.

    “The police killed my son!” he insists.


    This story is part of a multimedia project by Tiger Eye Foundation and media partners across Nigeria, documenting police brutality in Nigeria, and advocating for police reform.

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