Daddy, I didn’t expect it like this– last words of LASU student shot by policeman

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When 19-year-old Bariu Ayoola Thanni gained admission to read Public Administration at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, his parents had high hopes that he would graduate and fulfil his ambition to be a successful man. However, first semester into his study, the dream died: he died from bullet wounds from gunshots fired by a policeman. Jude Isiguzo reports.

He knew he was dying; that he would not survive the surgery to extract the bullets lodged in his head from shots fired by a policeman. But before his death, he summoned the last ounce of energy in him to clear his name.

At that point of death, nothing else mattered to Bariu Ayoola Thanni, a first year student of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, than to let his parents know that he was shot not because he was up to any mischief as most students are wont to.

"Daddy, I did not expect it like this. I was shot by a policeman while I was coming back from Epe. I did not do anything." Those were the last words of the late Thanni to his father, Alhaji Abd Haveez Ope Thanni, a teacher at the Federal Government College, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. A few hours later on that sombre Thursday, November 27, he died.

The late Thanni was among four students of LASU shot by a policeman at a checkpoint on the Lagos-Epe Expressway on the evening of November 25.

For two days, doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, battled to ensure that Thanni did not die.

The surgery was successful and he was wheeled out of the theatre. But shortly after his conversation with his father, he died.

The 19-year-old undergraduate of Public Administration, who had spent just one semester in LASU and 169 other students of the university, who are indigenes of Epe, Lagos, left the university in a convoy of five buses for the Lagos State indigeneship verification at Michael Otedola College of Education (MOCED), Noforija, Epe. The verification is to determine their eligibility for bursary award. A similar exercise was conducted in four other zones for other indigenes. The Nation learnt that at the end of the verification, the students departed MOCED, Epe for the main campus of LASU in Ojo, on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.

According to a statement by the Registrar of LASU, Mr. Oluwatoyin Oshun, four of the buses waited for the arrival of the fifth bus at a location known as "T-junction" in Epe, where a detachment of riot policemen mounted a checkpoint.

"Shortly after the arrival of the fifth bus, all the five buses were set to proceed on the journey in a convoy back to the main campus of the university, with all the students seated in the buses. Suddenly, they heard gunshots. The students initially thought that the policemen were just shooting into the air. A few seconds later, there were screams and cries that four students had been hit by bullets from the gunshots fired by the policemen. The shootings were without any provocation whatsoever, by the students.

"The four injured students were immediately rushed to the General Hospital, Epe, where two students with minor wounds, were treated and discharged. The two other students with major injuries, after initial medical attention at the General Hospital, Epe, were immediately conveyed, in Lagos State University Epe Campus Ambulance, to hospitals on Lagos Island, for further medical attention," Oshun said.

The police arrested the constable, Benjamin Olusegun, who fired the shots. He was dismissed and arraigned for attempted murder.

Olusegun, who had put in five years into the Police was arraigned at the Ebute-Meta Magistrate’s Court on November 26 before Mrs Abegunde David.

Though he pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge of attempted murder of Bariu Thanni, Balogun Adewale, Wole Oguntimehin and Adekoya Qudus, he told reporters after the court session that he shot the students.

Olusegun said: "I do not know how it happened. I thought they wanted to attack our Armoured Personnel Carrier. The gun just fired."

The prosecution counsel, Mr. Abdulsalam Alabi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), pleaded that the case be adjourned because of the condition of some of the victims who he said were in a bad shape. The late Thanni was one of those in a bad condition.

He said the adjournment would also enable the police to complete investigation.

Mrs. David adjourned the case till December 19.

Narrating the family’s ordeal to The Nation at the weekend, the late Thanni’s aunt, Mrs Morayo Kolawole, said they received the news of the shooting of their son, who she described as "humble, quiet, obedient and respectful," with shock and disbelief.

She said it was the Chief Imam of Epe, who spoke with her nephew at the hospital who broke the news to the family.

Mrs. Kolawole said the late Thanni, who was the fourth of the seven children of his parents, had dreamt of being successful in life.

"Our hearts are heavy and we want justice. The death of this innocent boy must not go unpunished. We know that the policeman has been dismissed and charged to court but he must not go free," she added.

She thanked Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Commissioner of Police Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo and the Commander, Rapid Response Squad (RRS) as well as staff and student of LASU, whom she said stood by the family in their time of grief.

The university management has resolved to institute a legal action against the police, in order to ensure that justice is done.

"The Lagos State University management is saddened that a policeman shot our innocent and unarmed students whilst they were going about their academic pursuits. The welfare of our students will continue to be of paramount importance to the university authorities.

"For the avoidance of doubt, Lagos State University wishes to emphasise its commitment to ensure that justice is done in this matter and the university solicitors have been instructed to pursue this unfortunate matter to its logical conclusion," Oshun said.

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