No word can describe our grief –Parents of teenagers crushed to death by NSCDC official in Gombe on Easter Monday
Eric Dumo and Chima Azubuike
If tears could bring back the dead, in Gombe, at least 10 teenagers would be back on their feet today. Since April 22, 2019 – Easter Monday – when they were crushed to death during a 12:00 religious procession by a murderous official of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps – Adamu Abubakar fondly known as Ushaka – in the Sabo Line area of the capital, their distraught parents and all those, who knew them closely have been drenched with tears. They have cried, prayed and constantly hoped for a miracle. But sadly, the victims are gone forever.
That early Easter morning, trouble was said to have begun when Abubakar first attempted to break the religious procession comprising members of the Evangelical Church Winning All, Church of Christ In Nations, and Anglican Church but was initially resisted by Brigade Boys of the group. He was said to have been eventually allowed to drive through the procession in a bid to avoid trouble. But unhappy at not being accorded ‘special’ respect by the group, Abubakar vowed to return in a ruthless form after dropping off a female friend in his car. Taking his threat with a pinch of salt, the Brigade Boys and the rest of the team proceeded with their procession. All of a sudden, from almost nowhere, the NSCDC official emerged. He wanted blood. He was determined to show that he was the boss here. And at full throttle and a mind spoilt for ‘war’, he rammed his vehicle into the group mostly made up of teenagers fiercely. By the time the tyres of the car came to a halt, 10 young souls laid lifeless on the ground while dozens others – at least 30 people – wailed in agony following injuries sustained. The chaos did not end there. Abubakar and a male occupant in the vehicle were promptly rounded up by the remainder of bruised procession, who equally delivered a deadly judgement on them. The two were pulled to death. It was the climax to a teary and bloody Easter for many households in Gombe.
When Saturday PUNCH visited homes of some of the dead victims, their parents, guardians and even friends could not hold back their tears. For them, the gruesome killing of their loved ones has not only cut short their hope for the future but also brought a new level of pain into their existing sufferings.
For example, the home of Mr Danjuma Paul, father of one of the teenagers killed – Joseph – has become a confluence of tears since Monday’s tragedy. Men, women and children could all be seen grieving at the place when one of our correspondents visited. According to family members, Paul was a promising boy whose rich ideas gave them hope for the future.
“He was a Junior Secondary School Two pupil of Universal Secondary School and dreamt of becoming a medical doctor when his life was cut short,” Paul’s distraught father said. “It was his younger brother who came to inform me and his mother that Paul had been hit by a vehicle.
“We rushed down to the scene and saw the heartbreaking damage that had been done to the young boys and girls including my son. Tears could not stop flowing down our cheeks.
“The man who killed them threatened to cause them pains and he did that. In fact, he made attempts to clear more people and escape but his car got stuck as a result of the crushed bodies on the ground.
“It is a pity that a uniformed personnel could behave in such a wicked way.
“Government must know the type of people they employ, that man acted like he had problems in his brain, they must test the mental state of those they recruit to avoid tragedies like this,” he added.
Alfred Ghazi, the uncle of the deceased, was one of the early sympathisers at the family’s home. Saddened by the death of the teenagers, he told Saturday PUNCH the pains Paul’s death had brought into their household.
“Paul’s death is still unbelievable,” he said. “He was such an obedient and promising boy. I can’t fathom why innocent teenagers should be crushed like pieces of paper. It is a very big loss for us,” he added.
Irmiya Ibrahim, 15, is another young boy that was cut in his prime as a result of the tragedy. According to his father, Amos, who was looking worn out and exhausted when one of our correspondent visited the family, it will take a long time before they came to terms witht their loss.
“I was called at about 12:00am that a driver deliberately rammed into a procession of the Brigade Boys and immediately rushed down to the place.
“When I got there, the whole place was in chaos, everywhere was scattered.
“It was from there that I proceeded to the specialist hospital where I found the lifeless body of my son.
“I had to return home to inform the rest of the family about the tragedy that had befallen us.
“Irimiya was a pride to me and his mother. He was looking forward to defending the sovereignty of our dear country by joining the military but his life and dream was cut short in such a brutal manner.
“But I’m grateful to God Almighty for the life he lived. He brought so much honour to me and intended to bring more to this country before he was killed.
“Though words cannot describe our grief, we leave everything to God,” he added.
When Saturday Punch visited the Madaki, Sabon Tabra and Barunde areas of the city where family members of more victims of the tragedy reside, grief was all over the atmosphere.
Jessy John, 16, who lost his father at a young age, had been living with his grandmother in Madaki ever since. But last Monday, he was crushed to death alongside his colleagues during the procession. Speaking on their loss, an aunt of the victim, Salome, said that they have been devastated since the tragic incident.
“Jessy was my nephew, a star and promising talent. Even though he was in JSS Three, he always talked about his desire to become a medical doctor.
“His death is a terrible blow to the family. His death has added to the hardship experienced in this family,” she said.
Ruth Samson, 13, had the ambition of becoming an architect. However, that dream was reduced to rubble when the wheels of Abubakar’s vehicle mowed her and others to death. According to her distraught father, Mr Samson, life will no longer be the same without Ruth around.
“My daughter’s dream was to become an architect,” the heartbroken father said. “She wanted to plan and design beautiful structures but unfortunately she has been killed. Her dream has been cut short forever,” he added.
Paulina Yusuf, 11, a student of Bolari East Secondary School, wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. But that fateful Easter morning, that ambition was crushed out of existence. According to her heartbroken father, Mr Yusuf, “Paulina desired to contribute immensely to fight the challenge facing the health sector in Nigeria and that was why she wanted to become a nurse.
“But she was killed for no reason. We lost a potential star in the medical profession by her death.”
Still grieving over the tragic demise of his daughter, Keziah, 13, Mr Daddah Amos, a business man, struggled to utter a word when Saturday PUNCH visited his home. Deeply lost in thought and cutting a forlorn picture, his pain could be felt even from metres away. It is a tough time for him and the rest of the family.
“That fateful day, I had a strange feeling that something terrible was going to happen but I did not know what exactly it was.
“I was indoors when suddenly someone came to inform me that my daughter and her colleagues had been crushed by a vehicle.
“We rushed to the hospital to see what was happening and met a large crowd outside. When I asked where my child was, it was her corpse that they showed me.
“I almost collapsed at that moment, it was the grace of God that gave me the strength to withstand that sight.
“My daughter’s death came not too long after I lost a son. Her death has compounded our misery,” he said.
Joseph Daniel, 21, is yet another victim of the tragedy. According to his father, Adamu, a security man, the death of his son is a terrible blow to the entire family. He said the boy, a student of Government Science Technical College, Barunde, was a promising child who they had much hope in for a better life.
“He was also a mechanic who wanted to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering.
“He was gentle and committed to the things of God. He was our hope of a better life in the future. I don’t know why his life should be cut short in such a wicked way,” he said.
A member of the ECWA Boys’ Brigade, Michael Adeniran, who witnessed the ugly incident said “Ukasha”, the late NSCDC official, deliberately rammed into the procession after initially threatening to do so.
“The incident happened around 12am. A car carrying women tried to pass through our midst, initially we were opposed to that because a free lane since there was reduced vehicular traffic but he wanted to show that he had power.
“However, when our leader prevailed on us, we allowed him to pass. After dropping off his girlfriends, he drove back with his car and rammed into our members. There was one other person with him in the car who is said to be a local government staff.”
Another eyewitness, Meshach Michael, said a mob pounced on the two men and beat them to death immediately after the vehicles crushed the teenagers to death.
“Immediately the group saw what happened, they held the driver and the man with him and beat them up in anger. They wanted to burn the car but were stopped,” he said.
A survivor of the incident, who identified himself as Godwin Zawon, wondered why the NSCDC official took such a terrible decision.
“This is not the first time that we would embark on a procession like this at night during such periods of the year.
“It is usually one of the ways we celebrate the season, so I don’t know why anybody should take offence in it.
“I just pray that God heals the wound of all families who lost someone,” he said.
Reacting to the incident, Gombe State Commissioner for Health, Dr Kennedy Ishaya, described the incident as unfortunate.
“The survivors have different degrees of injury; some have fractures, dislocations, and others lacerations. It is indeed a very sad incident,” he said.
Spokesperson for the NSCDC in Gombe, ASC Sajid Saad, said he had just returned from the Easter break and could not talk on the matter when contacted by Saturday PUNCH.
“I just returned from Easter break, I can’t talk about what I don’t know,” he said.
Confirming that 10 persons died while 30 others were injured in the tragedy, spokesperson for the Police in the state, SP Mary Malum, said that they were currently investigating the matter.
“There were 10 deaths and over 30 injured victims are receiving treatment at the state specialist hospital and other private health institutions.
“As we speak, investigation into the matter is ongoing,” she said.