FAMILY OF SLAIN FUN-SEEKER CRIES FOR JUSTICE
By Evelyn Usman
Three weeks ago, friends and well-wishers gathered in a restaurant in Surulere area of Lagos to celebrate the 24th birthday of their friend, Yusuf Olawale Balogun. A week later, the celebrant's life was cut short, following a bullet from a private guard.
The deceased, an only son to his widower father, visited Jelz Bar located along Oduduwa street, Kilo, Surulere, in the company of his friends. Time was 10pm.
Crime Alert gathered that a fight broke out outside the bar and in an attempt to separate the the fighters, a security guard said to be a member of the Odua Peoples Congress fired a shot which snuffed life out of Yusuf.
Narrating the incident of that fateful day, a friend of the deceased, Sunday Williams who witnessed it all, said, 'When we got to the bar, Yusuf whom we all called 'hunter' was playing games and then I told him that it was late and it was high time we left. I went outside to wait for him and I saw some area boys fighting with the OPC from Sunderland Hotel.
The late Yusuf Balogun
'The fight escalated when they began to break bottles to stab their opponents. Then one of the OPC guys started shooting into the air and when that did not succeed in breaking up the fight, he suddenly turned the gun at me and made to shoot me.'
But I ran into one of the toilets. After the dust settled, I went back to look for my friend. But to my greatest shock, I saw Yusuf on the ground in the pool of his blood. I guess he was trying to run out through the back door when he was shot.s
I shook him calling his name but he did not answer. I then carried him with the intention of taking him to the hospital but met the gates of the bar locked. I had no choice than to put him down and go look for help.
I ran first to his house but could not get anyone. I tried to reach members of his family on the phone but their numbers were not going. I then ran back to the bar where I met him still breathing, with some policemen manning the place. I begged the policemen to help me take him to the hospital but they told me they were waiting for their colleagues from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad to come carry him. I waited patiently, praying at the same time that Yusuf should not die.'
The heaven seem to be shut against him at that moment as his prayers was not answered. In a low tone , he disclosed that he watched Yusuf who who was writhing in excruciating pains, with passionate appeal for urgent help in his eyes, trying to mumble some words. Unable to bear the pain, Yusuf breathed his last in the full glare of his friend and policemen.
'He died right there without help despite the presence of some policemen,' Sunday said in an emotion- laden tone. Continuing, he said, ' the policemen further told me that they would not remove the corpse until they take his photograph. I went out in search of a photographer but did not get any because it was late.
'The Policemen then locked the bar with Yusuf 's body inside and then took about five of us to their station. They said we should write statements after which we were detained for the night. In the morning, they released me to go and break the news to his family.' Sunday said.
Before the arrival of the policemen, Sunday said he chased the assailant to Sunderland hotel where,' I met the gate locked from within. I knocked on it but it was not opened. When I peeped, I saw the guard jumping through the fence to another compound,' he stated.
When news of Yusuf's death filtered into his environment, irate youths reportedly stormed the hotel next day demanding for the head of the guard that pulled the trigger that fell one of their own, unleashing terror on anyone at sight within the hotel premises. They reportedly broke louvers, television sets and the air conditioners in the rooms. They were reportedly on the verge of setting the hotel ablaze when some policemen arrived and stopped the move.
Crime Alert learnt that the manager of the hotel and some suspected OPC members were arrested. But the assailant was said to be on the run.
The bereaved family have expressed displeasure over the the manner at which the matter was being investigated. The family who wondered why the assailant had to leave his post at number 41, Oduduwa street to 14 of same street where their son was, only to kill him, lamented 'The Police has done nothing since then except to withhold the corpse,' a member of the family stated.
With the corpse still in the custody of the police, it has forestalled the burial programme. Plans by youths of the area to have a candle light for Yusuf has reportedly been postponed because the corpse was yet to be released.
'Yusuf's father called us to put a stop to the proposed candle night because the Police has not released Yusuf's corpse and as a Muslim, he is supposed to be buried eight days after his death. It's now more than eight days.' Sunday told Crime Alert.
'All we want now is justice' said one of the family members who simply gave his as Mr Ganiu. We are using this medium to call on the state government to look into the menace of OPC members and by checking their excesses . What we are waiting for now is justice and that is why we are calling for government intervention. We are also begging the police to bring everyone involved to book.
Contacted, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Samuel Jinadu, assured that the case would not be swept under the carpet, as the culprits would be brought to book.
He disclosed that two persons had already been arrested, adding that investigation was still on-going. But he could not comment on the release of the corpse, saying he was unaware of it.