A 37-year-old graduate of Accountancy, University of Lagos, who sold recharge cards under the Meckwen Bridge, Victoria Island, Lagos State, was left to drown by men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, last Monday.
According to reports, Babalola Felix fell into the Lagoon as he was running to avoid being arrested, when the NSCDC men had invaded the area to rid it of hoodlums.
The unexpected visit allegedly led to a commotion in the area, as people fled in different directions – Babalola, who was also running, fell into the water after he slipped.
Eyewitnesses said efforts to rescue him were resisted by the NSCDC officials, who threatened to kill anyone who ventured near the scene.
The victim was said to have drowned after one of the officials pointed a gun at him to prevent him from coming out.
Babalola’s remains floated on the water two days after the incident.
“I sell herbs and on that day, I was around and saw everything. Around 1pm, NSCDC men drove into this place. The brother (Babalola) ran like others through a side of the bridge, but he slipped and fell into the Lagoon.Iya Peter (a trader in the area) started shouting, ‘this person no sabi swim o, make una come help am o’ (this man cannot swim, please help him).One of the officials replied, ‘e no sabi swim, na hin e enter water, if he wan die, make hin die there’ (he cannot swim yet he jumped into the water, if he wants to die, let him die).The brother begged them to rescue him, but they mocked and left him.A dumb man working with LAWMA, also wanted to help him, but they beat him up.The brother made attempt to come out, but one of the NSCDC officials went to the place and pointed a gun at him that if he came out of the water, he would shoot and kill him.” an eye witness told Punch newspaper.
It was also gathered that policemen from the Zone 2 Police Headquarters, Onikan, arrested the NSCDC officials, but later released them.
The official who led the three-man team was identified as Inspector Oladele Orijah.
The deceased’s aged mother passed out after hearing that her son was dead.
Lending a voice to the tragedy, Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, insisted that justice must be given to the Felix family.
“This is a case that should not be handled carelessly. The system reduced a graduate of the University of Lagos to a vendor selling recharge cards in town.
“In an attempt to chase him from the street, he was chased into the Lagoon by a law enforcement officer who was supposed to protect his life.
“To allow him to get drowned is worse. Those who tried to save him were scared away by the same official. It is a tragedy that should attract severe punishment under the law.
“We have taken over the matter and we will sue the appropriate agencies of government to make sure the family is compensated. He has left a wife and two kids. We will not allow them to become beggars on the street of Lagos. We will invoke the criminal jurisdiction of the state to get the officer fished out with a view to getting him to face the full wrath of the law.”