Having been tortured in SARS custody for two months, Olumide died at home from physical and psychological trauma.
For over 30 years, Mosunmola Labinjo served Nigeria as an administrative staff at the Ministry of Defence in Ibadan, Oyo state in her active years.
After retirement in 2009, the single mother of four couldn’t afford to rent a flat and struggled to cater for her children who were in their early and mid-20s at that time.
“I took the job as a housekeeper with a professor inside Bodija Housing Estate [in Ibadan, capital of Oyo state] so that my children would not suffer,” she said.
Her voice was extremely low, almost turning into a whisper.
The death of her son, Olumide, who was illegally detained for almost two months and later died at home, still rankles her.
Olumide’s illegal arrest and torture
Near Professor Kale’s house where the mother worked and lived with the other siblings, Olumide secured a job at a car wash. He was hoping to go abroad to study, his mother says.
In the morning, on March 23, 2019, police officers from Bodija Housing Police Station arrested Olumide where he was buying a cigarette.
It is not illegal to buy or smoke cigarettes in Nigeria and the police did not disclose any reasons for his arrest until his family arrived at Bodija Housing Police station where he was first detained that day.
There, the police, at first, tried to persuade the Olumide to write an incriminating statement but he refused. The police later told Olumide’s mother the son was among the robbers that raided the neighbourhood around 7 pm the previous night.
Mosunmola explained that Professor Kale also followed her to the station and testified that at the time the police accuse Olumide of having committed a robbery, Olumide was at the professor’s house turning on the generator.
“They told the Professor he was only speaking grammar.”
On the second day after his arrest, Olumide was transferred to the SARS office at the Dugbe, in Ibadan, where he was tortured badly and repeatedly pressured to accept the allegations against him. But Olumide was resolute and unswerving. Olumide suspected that the police wanted to exchange him for another crime suspect.
If the police truly had a case against the detainee, the family would not be asked to bring money to close a non-existent case. “They asked me to bring N500,000 so that my son can be free,” Adebisi said.
“Where do I get such money? I managed to raise about N100,000. They collected that and kept asking for more,” she added.
In June 2009, Mosunmola finally encountered someone who encouraged her to approach the Oyo state ministry of justice to seek pro-bono legal assistance.
Flickers of Hope
At the justice ministry, Mrs Bisi Ogunkanmi (now a Chief Magistrate) offered her all the help she wanted.
She arraigned the case against Olumide before the Ibadan Magistrate court in June 2009. The case moved on to the High Court in Ibadan where it was eventually struck out in August 2009.
The End for an Ambitious Nigerian
“Mummy, will you look for a job for me if I leave this place,” Olumide often asked the mother. Brimming with hope, the mother too would answer in the affirmative.
Although Olumide was later released from detention on August 27, 2009, the pain and brutality he endured would come to haunt him afterwards.
Immediately after the release, Olumide began to suffer severe backache and could no longer stand erect, according to Mosunmola. The mother took him to the University College Hospital in Ibadan for about two months and resorted to self-care when money became an issue. “The stress was too much for my age,” she said.
Olumide died in Professor Kale’s house, where he lived with his family at that time, on March 12, 2010.
“He was a very ambitious, hardworking young man,” the mother said. “They (the police) killed my dear son and didn’t allow him to fulfil his destiny. They killed him and didn’t allow me to reap the fruit of my labour.”
Olumide was laid to rest on the land the mother bought at retirement at the Eleyele area of Ibadan.
Meanwhile, after 10 years of waiting for her gratuity, Olumide’s mother, Adebisi, received her gratuity in 2019.
She no longer had to do menial jobs. She now sells refined honey at one of the shops she built in front of her residence.
“I thank God that my son was not buried outside. He is resting in the house the children built for me and not somewhere I do not know,” she said.