…Policemen asked for fuel money to convey our dying madam to the hospital – Driver
…Family faults police theory on bandits
…Villagers allege rape, say armed men usually emerge from forest, strike and run back
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
Olufunke Olakunri: “WHEN beggars die, there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” – William Shakespeare
This Allusion is apt following the deluge of reactions that trailed the gruesome murder of Mrs Olufunke Olakunri, daughter of the National Leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, since the incident happened 10 days ago.
The murder shook the nation and is undoubtedly a trying time for the nonagenarian politician who lost his 58-year-old daughter.
Funke, as the deceased was fondly called, left behind her husband of over 30 years, Idowu, two daughters, Feyisike and Oyindamola, and grandchildren.
This death and hundreds of others before it could have been averted, according to many Nigerians, had government applied a pragmatic approach to the insecurity bedevilling the country for many years now.
The inability of the government to find a lasting solution to persistent herdsmen/farmers clashes in many parts of the country had snowballed into kidnapping, killing and raping of innocent children and their mothers in farms, maiming and the shedding of blood.
Now the home of the 94-year-old father of the deceased has become a Mecca of sorts as the nation’s political leaders, including former President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, governors, former governours, National Assembly members, state lawmakers, political associates and religious leaders, thronged the Akure residence of Fasoranti to pay condolences on daily basis.
In an emotion-laden voice, the bereaved patriarch told Sunday Vanguard, “We are in a war period. We are under siege. The worst thing is that our people cannot go to their farms because these killers are there. Our farmlands have been destroyed by these herders. We just need to pray to God for his intervention.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should put a stop to all these killings. It has gotten out of hand”.
Apart from the driver, Tayo Ogundare, also in the vehicle with the deceased, was the housemaid, Vivian Justice, and a member of the family, Boluwaji Iwajomo.
Funke had been travelling from Akure, where she had gone to see her father, among others, to Lagos, where she was based when assailants struck on Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway penultimate Friday afternoon.
Some villagers and farmers interviewed at the scene of the incident, known as NIROWI, Kajola community near Ore, said that when the attack happened, it was raining and that the hoodlums had their hideout in the government forest reserve in the area.
A former senator who represented Ondo South at the Senate, Boluwaji Kunlere, confirmed that hoodlums had been operating around where Olakunrin was killed for a long time.
“l think the police do not have the manpower to ensure adequate security in the area. The expressway (Benin-Ore-Sagamu Expressway) is where the major problem is. The spot (Kajola) where they killed Baba Fasoranti’s daughter falls between Odigbo and Okitipupa Local Government Areas”, Kunlere said.
“The people living close to the area said herdsmen had taken over that area and that there was a time a bishop was abducted and the police rescued him in that area. Herdsmen are all over the forest.
“We see them between Omotosho and Igbotako. They graze their cows on the road, strike and run back into the forest”.
Our madam could have survived if… – Driver
Narrating how the killers snuffed life out of Funke, the driver of the Land Cruiser SUV, marked LAGOS AAA 147 FM, Ogundare, told Sunday Vanguard at the ljapo residence of the Olufunke Olakunri Fasorantis, “We left Akure for Lagos. We stopped over at Ore toll gate to buy soft drinks. After leaving the scene, we had not driven more than five minutes when we started hearing gunshots”.
He said the attackers may have been notified about their movement from the spot where they stopped over at Ore.
“It was like we were their target because the shooting was concentrated on our car while a Sienna bus marked ABUJA KUJ 345 S J coming behind us was shot only once”, the driver said.
“Olufunke Olakunri, who was sitting at the back of the car, said I should reverse the car. As I wanted to put the car in reverse gear, some masked men, about 20, jumped from the bush to the expressway and rained bullets on the car.
“Before we knew what was happening, another set of people, also masked, jumped out from the opposite side of the road and shot at the side where madam was sitting.
“A bullet entered the vehicle through the back door, pierced the seat belt used by “Olufunke Olakunri before hitting her on the side”.
Sunday Vanguard noticed that a shot was fired at the front passenger’s seat of the SUV by the attackers who possibly believed that the owner was with a police escort while two shots were fired at the owner’s side and one directly at where the car battery was placed ostensibly to demobilize the car if the driver refused to stop.
“The car was still moving and suddenly one of the killers shot at the front tyre and the car hit the culvert and somersaulted”, the driver said.
“Everybody (in the car) was panicky and the car stopped. I jumped out of the broken windscreen with the housemaid and we both ran into the bush.
“We heard several gunshots from where we were hiding inside the bush. It was later that we heard a police siren and we came out.
“At this point, Olufunke Olakunri was still breathing and the police asked us to bring money for fuel so that she could be taken to hospital.
“We begged them to assist us in taking Olufunke Olakunri, to hospital. But one of them asked us to bring N1,000 to fuel their vehicle.
“Olufunke Olakunri would have survived if not for the delay in taking her to hospital. We later heard that she died in hospital”.
Maid: I notified the Fasorantis about the attack
The housemaid, Vivian, also gave her own account of the attack.
Her words: “When we started hearing gunshots, madam said ‘what was that?’ And I said maybe policemen escorting some white men were the ones shooting.
“But when it was persistent, madam asked the driver to reverse so as not to run into those shooting.
“As the driver was reversing, the killers shot at the car severally and the car stopped after somersaulting. I jumped out of the car and, because my phone was still in my hand, I started calling madam’s people in Akure inside where I was hiding. The driver left his own phone inside the car.
“After about 30 minutes, people who also left their cars on the expressway started coming out of the bush.
“While the attack was going on, for almost 20 minutes, we did not see any security agent. They later came and took Olufunke Olakunri, to hospital. We were later told that she died.
“We were taken to the police station where officers asked us questions”.
Family faults police on bandits claim
Also speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the younger brother of Olufunke Olakunri, Kehinde Fasoranti, a pharmacy, disagreed with the police that the killers were armed robbers.
Ondo State Police Commissioner, Udie Adie, had said the attackers were bandits and not herdsmen.
Kehinde accused the police chief of lying regarding the identity of the attackers.
“I visited the police station in Ore town shortly after the incident and I was told by officers on duty that those who operated and shot Mrs Olakunrin were herdsmen”, the bereaved brother said.
“We need to get the story straight. The way they operated, according to what the police said in Ore, is the way herdsmen operate.
“Six people were in front of shooting at them. The driver put the car in reverse but, unknown to him, some men were in the bush and started shooting from the side and at the back.
“The story that these are just bandits is a lie. If you want records, request for the report I made at Ore police station. They categorically said the attackers were herdsmen.
“It’s about time we stood up and fight back. Nobody is protecting us. Eventually, they will come inside the house and kidnap people.
“Enough is enough. We can’t continue like this. I want the police to retract what they said. They (attackers) are herdsmen”.
What we found inside the car after the attack – Relative
Sunday Vanguard was told by a relation of the Fasorantis that “phones, money, jewellery and other valuables in the car were still intact after the incident to dismiss the insinuation that the attackers were armed robbers”.
He added, “if the attackers’ intention was to rob, why did they not go away with any of the valuables?”
Indeed, a farmer in one of the villages in Akinfosile where the attack occurred, one Omolayo Akinyemi, confirmed that herdsmen have been terrorising them in the area for years and that they reside in the forest.
Akinyemi said that was not the first time they would perpetuate the act in the area.
He said, “They have destroyed all our farms. Sometimes they would bring their cows while we are sleeping to eat up our farm produce.
“Hearing of gunshots is a common thing here. We have reported to the police but nothing has been done”.
Also, some residents of one of the communities along the expressway close to the ‘death spot’ told Sunday Vanguard that those who rob motorists and kidnap them are herdsmen.
One of them said, “We are always attacked by these men when we are on the way to our farms. They have raped our wives on several occasions; they live in the government forest reserve.
“The herdsmen carry out attacks on the Lagos highway either early in the morning or late in the evening. They will collect the food being taken to the farm. The policemen posted to Mile 49 from Igbotako have been able to rescue some travellers while they were trying to kidnap them.
“Whenever they are operating, they shoot sporadically to the extent that bullets sometimes land on our roofs.
“These herdsmen are armed with AK-47 rifles.
“We have no fewer than 60 herdsmen in the area each carrying AK-47 and other dangerous weapons”.
To buttress the claim that the armed men terrorising the area and motorists are herdsmen, he said, “Through the efforts of our youths and the assistance of policemen, we overpowered one of the bandits and handed him over to the police in Igbotako. He was a herdsman and said their sponsors were in Lagos”.
On the allegation that herdsmen also rape women going to farms in the communities on the expressway, the residents narrated that a woman was about to be raped by some attackers and when it was discovered that she was pregnant, she was released.
The Chairman of Odigbo council area, Mrs Magrette Akinsuroju, said that security had been beefed up in the council area.
Ondo State Commissioner for information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, also speaking on insecurity in the state, said, “Insecurity is almost a nationwide issue that requires everything to curb it”.
Meanwhile, reactions continued to trail the gruesome murder of Olufunke Olakunri
The Social Democratic Party, SDP, demanded security overhaul with a view to halting the spate of killings and other crimes going on across the country.
The SDP, in a statement by its Advocacy Group, quoted the National Chairman, Professor Tunde Adeniran, as describing the murder of the Afenifere leader as one-death-too-many, repugnant and unacceptable.
Also, the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Dr Olu Agunloye, said since the current security set up in the country does not seem to be effective in combating challenges, the time has come for the Federal Government to restructure the security apparatus in order to safeguard lives and property.
Agunloye, a former Minister of Defence, who also condemned the gruesome murder of Funke and the increase in cases of kidnappings across the country, especially in the South-West, added that only decisive action by the government would restore the confidence of Nigerians in the nation’s security system.