Rahmon Azeez, a 36-year-old Nigerian man was full of life on Wednesday and nothing suggested that death loomed. Saturday PUNCH learnt that he just got a visa to travel to the United States of America to see his wife and twins, who he had never carried physically since they were born abroad. He arranged for his wife to travel to the US where she delivered of the babies. But his hope of reuniting with his wife and children was cut short.
It was gathered that the deceased recently bought a Toyota Camry and drove the car to the Iwo Road Shopping Complex in Ibadan, Oyo State, built by his mother popularly known as Mama Ahmed. However, on getting to the spot, the entrance was said to have been blocked by commercial bus drivers dropping and picking passengers despite the place not designated as a bus stop.
He was said to have asked the drivers to leave the entrance to allow customers and visitors to the complex to access the building. But his speech, it was gathered, reportedly resulted in an altercation. The drivers were said to have reported him to the park managers who were accused of swooping on the young man and dealt him blows and slaps.
Being a popular person at the complex, his mother’s tenants and phone sellers were said to have rescued him from the hands of the drivers and park managers. Not satisfied, the assailants reportedly left to mobilise and invaded the complex with weapons.
Eyewitnesses who spoke with our correspondent said the hoodlums targeted Azeez and hurled stones, sticks and other sharp objects at him before he was stabbed in the chest.
One of the shop owners at the complex, Taye Salawu, told our correspondent that Azeez’s assailants made sure that he was dead before leaving. He noted that they later hid under the cover of the melee to loot and vandalise shops in the complex. Salawu said, “Not satisfied with the level of destruction, they looted shops and carted away phones and other electronic devices.’’
The deceased’s mother, brother and the entire family were left heartbroken after the violence and traders counted huge losses.
Azeez’s grieving elder brother, Ahmed Azeez, told our correspondent that the leader of the Park Managers, Alhaji Lamidi Mukaila, popularly known as Auxiliary, led armed members who killed his brother at the complex.
Asked if he saw Auxiliary at the scene of the attack, Ahmed said, “There is video evidence to back it up and I saw it. My brother was 36 years old. His family resides in the US and he already got a visa to visit them. His wife gave birth to twins. He had not seen the babies since their birth. He planned to see his family but that never happened. We have buried him. I am heartbroken. I can’t talk for long. I don’t know if this is a dream.”
Tension was palpable at the complex and from under the bridge to the Abayomi Bus Stop area when our correspondent visited the area on Thursday. Shops were shut and some traders were seen hanging around the area.
The area was taken over by the police, Operation Burst, a joint security outfit, including soldiers and Amotekun corps. About 25 patrol vans were stationed there to prevent a further breakdown of law and order in the area.
Our correspondent observed that the hoodlums took their time to vandalise the shops. Every glass there was shattered and the floor filled with broken glasses and bottles.
Some of the affected traders took our correspondent to the spot where Azeez Rahmon was killed by his attackers. He was said to have got to a dead end where his assailants pursued him and dangerous weapons freely used to attack him.
Our correspondent gathered that neighbours, his mother’s tenants at the complex and friends picked his corpse later and enraged youths took his corpse to the Governor’s Office at State Secretariat, Agodi, to protest the killing.
Traders recount losses, cry for justice
One of the traders, Akeem Yusuf, told our correspondent that the hoodlums after killing Azeez and injuring many others looted their shops. He added that the thugs returned on Thursday morning and stole the remaining wares in the shops.
Another trader, Mr Kayode Ismail, alleged that soldiers attached to Operation Burst and some Amotekun corps were present when the armed hoodlums invaded the complex and wreaked havoc there.
He said, “The problem started with a complaint that the drivers blocked the entrance of the complex with their vehicles. Azeez came and wanted to park his car but there was no way for him to enter the complex. He complained and that led to an altercation. The drivers called the park managers and they attacked the young man. This led to a fight but some shop owners came to his rescue and the park managers went away and returned fully armed.
“They chased Azeez and he fled before he fell down and they started hurling sharp objects at him. They stabbed him and stoned him. They ensured that he died before they left while others started breaking our shops, stealing and destroying the ones they could not steal. Where were the policemen and soldiers now around? Some of the soldiers and Amotekun were around yesterday when they killed Azeez. They did nothing to stop the drivers.”
Another trader at the shopping complex who identified himself only as Toyeeb said the loss suffered by traders at the complex was huge.
The traders were enraged when the state governor, Seyi Makinde, visited the scene and addressed them. In unison, they accused Auxiliary of masterminding the attack on Azeez and their goods, urging the governor to ensure his arrest, removal from his current position and prosecution.
Deceased’s mother speaks
The deceased’s mother, Alhaja Salmot Azeez, told journalists on Friday that she wanted justice in the case. She said Azeez was a graduate of Lead City University, Ibadan, Oyo State, and was not a cultist.
She said she allowed drivers to use part of the entrance even though their activities usually obstructed movement into shops in the complex.
Salmot said, “A former Commissioner of Police, Adisa Bolanta, intervened and resolved that we should allow them to use part of the entrance and I allowed them. Even a Divisional Police Officer at the time, Ilori, took a photograph of the way the commercial drivers were disturbing us to the then CP and the matter was resolved.
“But this is the way they paid me back by killing my son. My first child whom they attempted to kill studied in London, United Kingdom, but he decided to return to Nigeria. My slain son had a shop where he was selling phones in the shopping complex. He was never a cultist. He was a phone dealer. I don’t know how I offended Auxiliary that made him kill my son. I don’t know what I did to him. He knows me and I usually give him something. I gave him whatever he asked me. This is a great loss.”
Besides, Ahmed said he was the target of those who attacked his brother.
He said, “I was the one they were after. If they were able to lay their hands on me that day, I wouldn’t have been here today. I don’t know why the man is still on the street now. By now, he should be in police custody.”
He said somebody like Auxiliary should not have been appointed by the government to head any place.
In his reaction, the Public Relations Officer for the Park Management System, Alhaji Emiola Jelili, told our correspondent that Auxiliary neither killed nor attacked anybody.
He stated that some politicians were behind the allegation, adding that he also called on the police to carry out a thorough investigation into the crisis and punish whoever was found culpable.
Jelili said, “ Oga (Auxiliary did not attack anybody). He received calls that there was a crisis at Iwo Road and we went there. I was with him that day and thank God that before we got there, the police, soldiers and Amotekun were there and this gave him the confidence that the government had taken steps to bring the situation under control. The alleged attack happened before he got there. He wasn’t there when the crisis happened. He got there after the whole thing. If you analyse the videos in circulation, you will see that he was asking people to leave the place.
“No clashes have been recorded at any motor park since the Park Management System was introduced. But those not satisfied that the government should get from the revenue generated from parks will stop at nothing to tarnish his image. Iwo Road is a big place and three local governments have big parks there so, if Auxiliary was told that there was a crisis there, I don’t think it is out of place that he went there to see what happened.
“The back of the shopping complex is a hideout for cultists and the issue of entrance obstruction was used as a smokescreen. What we heard was that someone bought a phone and the phone was bad. He brought it back the next day but the seller refused to change it, saying he would repair it. The buyer was said to have insisted on getting a refund or a new phone and this led to a clash. The two parties were said to belong to two different cult groups. The allegation against Auxiliary is false and the public should discard it. People should wait for police investigation into the case.’’
Governor, CP promise justice
While inspecting the vandalised complex, the governor appealed to the traders who are mostly youths to allow the police carry out investigation, promising them that justice would be served. The governor who told them that he grew up in the area, said parking at the spot had been an age-long problem which would be solved.
Also, the state Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko, who was at the scene on Thursday shortly before the governor arrived, also told the aggrieved traders that the crisis would be painstakingly investigated and culprits would be prosecuted.