One week after the clash between officers of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) and motorcycle riders at Agodi gate area of Ibadan, it emerged on Tuesday that the rider at the centre of the clash, Alfa Hamzat Ibrahim has been grovelling in pain having lost his right eye to a bullet shot during the incident.
According to Nigeria Tribune, the fracas had ensued when other okada riders in defending Hamzat whose motorcycle was seized and slapped, clashed with the warders to fight against perceived injustice against one of their own.
Hamzat had been hit in the eye by a double dose of teargas and gunshot which the authorities of the correctional centre maintained never came from their officials.
Though some reports said Hamzat died in last Tuesday’s incident, Nigerian Tribune visited the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, on Tuesday, to see Hamzat, in dark goggles, seeking financial help for a surgery to ensure that he doesn’t lose his second eye and that his face is not gravely disfigured.
While the bullet has been removed from his eye, during an Opthalmology operation, Hamzat has the next seven days to carry out neurology surgery dealing with the skull and another oral surgery at the cost of over N700,000.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune in hushed tones, Hamzat recounted that he had only dropped passengers from Mokola at Agodi gate and wanted to pick passengers to Ogunpa when a warder arrested him and took his bike into the prison.
Unable to fathom what offence he committed, Hamzat had approached some soldiers guarding the prison to ask them to plead on his behalf to the warders to release his bike.
According to Hamzat, the soldiers truly pleaded on his behalf and while he went to reclaim his bike, an infuriated warder had dealt him a punch on his left eye for daring to report him to the soldiers.
The okada riders and spare part sellers who witnessed Hamzat being beaten charged towards the prison officials to express their displeasure thereby leading to the fracas.
Narrating his ordeal, Hamzat said, “suddenly, a warder approached me and arrested me and I questioned why I was arrested. He said I was arrested for where I stood and he took my away my bike to the front of the prison.
“I begged him, asking what my offence was. He just asked me to leave and come back for the bike the following morning.
“I then went to present my case before the soldiers usually in front of the prison, telling them that the soldiers had seized my bike. The soldiers went to meet the warders about my bike.
“The warder was annoyed that I went to report him to the soldiers and punched me on the left side of my face. The people selling spare parts who saw what happened questioned the warders over what offence I committed.
“They wondered whether the officers had learnt their lessons despite the #EndSARS agitations. The four warders now faced the people selling spare parts and okada riders questioning their act and the fight began.
“They questioned why the four warders struck my face despite seeing that I had scars from a previous accident. The warders used planks to hit my head.
“The soldiers tried to calm the situation but could not handle the crowd. The soldiers got me my bike and asked me to drive it away from the prison.
“Suddenly, I saw the three warders, one with a gun and two warders with teargas. As I was going away with my bike, they opened teargas on my eyes and then fired a gunshot, that is all I knew till I got to the hospital. I know the three persons that put teargas and fired a gunshot into my face.
“I heard a gunshot and teargas but don’t know it had entered my eye. I cannot see anymore with my right eye. I want well-meaning individuals, government to help.
“I have lost so much on the first surgery. Since I have lost one eye, I will not be able to return to my bike business. But I am still alive.
“I know there are people who have one sight but still live a normal life. They should save my eyes, my life. I am an agile and strong person. I don’t want to become a beggar. I am 37 years old, I have a National Diploma in Electrical Engineering.”
Also speaking, Hamzat’s wife, Lateefah Raji, bemoaned that her husband suffered maltreatment from a government official and had been abandoned.
Noting that the family only scavenged to get N200,000 for the surgery to remove the bullet from the eye, Lateefah said only donations from government and well-meaning individuals can save her husband and enable him to undertake two important surgeries that should be done within the next seven days.
Lateefah said, “since day one of this incident, I was told that it is the government’s responsibility. Since then, we have been waiting for the government to take over the treatment or that they should give me a letter so that he can get treatment on the government’s bill. One person collected my phone number promising to call me but it has not happened till today.
“The doctors told me to assume responsibility rather than wait on government except I want him to die. I was told that the government’s intervention is a long process.
“So, we began gathering money. By the third day, we were asked to do another series of tests and there is no fund anymore.
“The doctor that treated him said since they had removed the bullet, I should make necessary payments. He said they have removed the bullet from his eye.
“I am hoping for government’s intervention. We were told he has lost his right eye because the iris is burst.
He is having three surgeries to do but we have nothing anymore.
“We have spent about N200,000. He has done ophthalmology operation but left to do neurology surgery dealing with skull and OMS costs about N700,000.
“We were told that until we have money, they won’t proceed. We will have to purchase some implants to adjust the eye. There are so many tests still to be done before the operation to be done.
“The neurologist said he has a grace of 14 days so that it won’t be healing in the wrong side while OMS said he has seven days. They said failure to do it means that the face will no more look moderate.”
Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Correctional Service, Oyo Command, Mr Anjorin Olanrewaju, on Tuesday, maintained that no prison officials shot at anyone.
He added that he was unaware that anyone was injured from a gunshot.
Anjorin said: “This is the first time I am hearing that someone from last Tuesday’s incident is in the hospital and have been abandoned. Nobody was injured from a gunshot. I am not aware that our officials shot at anyone.
“I have made it clear on different occasions that none of our officers actually shot at anybody. However, if anything happened outside our jurisdiction, there is no way we will know.
“The Nigerian Correctional Service had informed the okada riders to desist from picking passengers at the junction leading to the facility due to the sensitivity of the area, asking them to move further down the road and allow free movement of vehicles.
“This peaceful initiative was however resisted and they started attacking our men by throwing stones and other dangerous objects.
“In the process, some of our staff were wounded and the armed squad were forced to disperse them using tear gas to forestall any attempt to further breach the security of the Agodi Facility,” Anjorin said.
On its involvement in last Tuesday’s incident, Director General, Oyo State Joint Task Force (Operation Burst), Colonel Ajibola Oladipo (rtd) said its officers only calmed the situation and prevent an attack on the Agodi custodial facility by resolute persons.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, he affirmed that officers of Operation Burst took Hamzat to the UCH to save his life.
He absolved the task force of any shooting during the clash between correctional officials and the okada riders.
Ajibola prayed that Hamzat gets the required funds for his treatment.
Ajibola said, “Operation burst came into the situation because the misunderstanding was between him and correctional officers. Our role is to curb anything that will threaten the peace of the state. Police even had to go away.
“It is wrong for anybody to say people were killed. Our operation officer took him to UCH based on our understanding with the hospital when we have such an incident. The issue was between the correctional service and Hamzat.
“We came as an intermediary. They even stoned our men; even soldiers from 2 division came. We have Operation Burst based on the rule of law, respect for human rights.
“The bitter truth is that the clash is between the prison officials and the okada people. We had to secure the correction centre because miscreants gathered with their motorcycles and appealed to them.