It has been 10 months since a 22-year-old fashion designer, Bamise Ayanwole was murdered on February 26, 2022, after she boarded a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicle at Chevron bus stop heading for Oshodi, Lagos State.
The elder sister, Oladamilola Ayanwole, in this interview with SaharaReporters, talks about the family’s long walk to justice amid government’s perceived nonchalance.
How did Bamise die?
Oluwadamilola said that Bamise was our last born but my mother used to refer to her as the elder sister to her unborn children because she never believed that she was the last child.unfortunately, it was on a Saturday evening, February 26, 2022, around 7p.m when she left her place of work at Ajah to go to my elder brother, Pelumi’s place because his wife was in labour.
When she boarded the bus, she noticed that the driver switched off the light, the driver asked her to go and sit at the back and from the point where he picked her, he did not pick another passenger even when passengers waved at him to convey them. It got to some stage that she became scared of what was happening and she asked the driver what was going on, not knowing that what she was suspicious of, was what was really about to happen.
She began to communicate with her friend, asking if BRT buses routinely pick passengers at Chevron Bus stop and her friend said yes that BRT buses pick passengers at Chevron Bus stop.The friend asked her what’s up and she said it’s because she’s being scared of the driver because he didn’t pick any other passenger aside from her, and that the driver switched off the lights and told her to go and sit at the far back.
She showed her friend some video showing the number of the bus and later she took a picture of the number inside the BRT bus and sent it to her friend and she was like, should I come down and her friend told her to come down if the driver did not pick another passenger and she said she would alight at Oworoshodi bus stop.
But before they got to Oworoshodi, she said the driver picked three passengers at one spot and she told her friend that she was a little bit comfortable because of the passengers but later, she noticed some suspicious movements by the passengers and she told her friend that these people too were like they were not clean and that she was feeling somehow about them because of the way they were doing and acting.
The friend asked how many men were there and she said three men and two women but she identified herself as the second woman in the bus and I believe it was the driver that was the third man in the bus. The friend told her to tell the driver she was not going again.
Later, her friend noticed that she sent her (Bamise) voice note but my sister did not respond to it and according to the friend, she called her on normal call not on WhatsApp but before they answered, it took them a while and when they answered the call, she heard struggling voices like when you are fighting and struggling with somebody. That was the last thing she heard.
But because Bamise used Felicia Omolara’s (the friend) phone to text the elder brother like 3-4 days before the incident, that was how she got one of the family members’ phone number and she (her friend) felt like, she should have gotten to where she was going to, she called Bamise again again but her phone was switched off till the following day which was Sunday.
She then put a call across to my elder brother and my brother called my mom whether they had heard about Bamise and my mother called my brother to ask if they heard seen Bamise but he said he was not at home and decided to call his neigbours to know if Bamise had gotten to his place but they told him that they didn’t see anybody like that.
That was when the friend transferred all their conversation to my younger brother and told him that this was what she was saying when she was on the bus. That was the last voice of my sister - the conversation she had with her friend was the last conversation of my sister.
On Sunday when I got to know about it around 7:30p.m, I immediately went to my nearest police station at Monroe to report and when I got there they told me that that was not the right place to make the report, that I should go to Oshodi because she was coming from Chevron to Oshodi.
I went to Akinpelu police station in Oshodi and told them I was looking for my sister but they shouted at me, asking me how can we say we are looking for a grown up lady of that age. I left you there. Meanwhile my brother and I, Pelumi, whom Bamise was going to his place, went to her place of work but she was not there.
They said that they went to a police station too but they were asked to go and call the family members.
On Monday, we went to BRT Terminal 3 in Oshodi and told them that we were looking for the driver of the bus with the plate number we have. They said the plate number belongs to them and that they know the driver. Meanwhile, before that, they were pushing us here and there before somebody directed us to one site where we saw one Mr. Raphael and we were told that he was one of the supervisors at the terminal.
He said he knows the driver very well. In fact, he knows his wife, he knows everything about him, he is a good servant, a good Samaritan, giving him different kind of names that he knows he can’t do that because he is a gentleman and very responsible and that he will resume work by 2p.m. and he made sit down there for hours before I went back to him asked him when likely is this man coming.
He said what if my sister has gone to enjoy with her boyfriend, that when she’s done with her boyfriend, then my sister will come back home, don’t we know ladies of nowadays. We asked him if the buses have CCTV and he said yes. He said in fact, this particular bus has CCTV that anything that was going on in the bus will be captured but later, the number one of Lagos State (the Governor) said that the bus did not have CCTV and that there are some buses that do not have CCTV.
Somebody directed us to their office and we went there told them that we were looking for the driver and they said when he arrived, they told him to wait but he received a call and after he received the call, he said that he was hungry and that was how he escaped.
We were looking for him until somebody gave us his contact and we called him but he sounded very relaxed like a chief. He did not even show the feeling that he had taken somebody’s life. We got his picture and posted it online that we were looking for him.
We posted my sister’s pictures too. Before we got to know that they had already taken my sister’s life on that Saturday. My sister was no more. It was on social media that somebody tweeted that this lady you are looking for looks like a lady that was lifeless on the bridge. They took her life forcefully and made us shed bitter tears.
The policewoman we met at Ponle Police Station shouted at us, even after showing her the video and playing our sister’s voice notes conversation she had with her friend. She sent us away.
It was somebody on Twitter that posted the picture of my sister’s lifeless body and the picture we posted and said that she was dead that Saturday night.
According to the person, when the BRT bus drove passed, there was a Jeep that was parked at the back of the BRT bus and after they dropped her, they even thought that it was a bin that they dumped there. Those people then entered the Jeep that was behind the bus and drove off. It was after nine days that my brother discovered her dead body at the place they dumped her.
When they arrested him (Omininikoron) at where he was hiding, he said he killed her because he raped her and that was why he ran away, but later, after they had cooked up what he would say, he said the passengers he picked pointed a gun at him and he did everything they asked him to do.
The BRT is owned by the state government led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and the government is in turn, Omininikoron’s employer. How has the case been going that Bamise’s family is still crying for justice after 10 months?
Well, he was arrested after some days and was charged to court at Tafawa Balewa Square and we have been going to court with them but nobody informed us that they wanted to charge him to court. It was on social media that we heard it. It was after we got to know about it that we started going to court. But even in court, we were to be seen and not to be heard.
How have the court proceedings been?
The case was Lagos State versus Lagos State. The complainant and the prosecutor was the Lagos State government. Our lawyer was not aware that they wanted to charge him to court. None of my family was informed about it. We heard everything on social media. We heard about the first court hearing on social media and before our lawyer, Ayo Ademiluyi could get to the court, they had finished.
Either the second or the third hearing, our lawyer was opposite the court and according to him, he saw through the window that they were taking the driver to court, then he called us around 9:30a.m and we quickly picked Uba and went to the court but before we got there, they had already finished and we did not meet him. Our lawyer only found out the next adjourned date.
It is the Lagos state government that employed the driver. It is still the Lagos state government that took him to the police station and arraigned him.
Where is Omininikoron presently, in jail or where?
Well, that question should be answered by the Lagos State government because we don’t know. Remember they didn’t invite us to the court, we invited ourselves. The last sitting on the case was October 29 and the next sitting is December 5.
What has Omininikoron been saying in the court?
He has not been saying anything. He never pleaded guilty. He never accepted being responsible for Bamise’s death in court. It was the night that he was arrested where he was hidding that he said he ran away because he raped her. But during an interview that granted only TVC which is owned by somebody, he said it was because they put a gun on his head that he had to do everything they commanded him to do.
It was only TVC that they allowed to interview him when they had changed his clothes like three times and before I went to a press conference and cried out, asking why it was only TVC that was interviewing him. Where are the others? Where are Channels TV, Arise TV, SaharaReporters?
We, the family of Bamise are not happy with the way the Lagos State government is handling the matter. We do not accept it.
How has the family coped with Bamise's death?
We almost lost my younger sister who is Bamise's immediate elder sister. She was pregnant before the incident happened. Our first born, my eldest sister, almost died too because Bamise was living with her.
My parents have been crying everyday. I stopped going to my parents' place because each time they see me, it reminds them of Bamise because we resemble each other so much.
What is Bamise’s family demanding and what is the family planning to do?
I am not fighting, I am not standing for the justice of my sister alone but I am fighting and I am standing as a mother for justice for myself, for justice for my children, for the safety of all Nigerian youths, especially the ladies.
I am fighting for my sister quite alright but she is dead already. No fight, no crying, no mourning, no king, no president or governor can represent Bamise in our life or can bring her back to life but we have to prevent it.
What I am saying now is so that others will not be found lifeless like the way that she was found. That was why I said I have something for the governor, and what I have for the governor is, let all women come outside for justice for themselves, for the safety of their children.
When we don't get justice today, there won't be safety tomorrow. That was why I said I have something on Bamise's posthumous birthday. I am calling all the mothers, all the beautiful ladies to come out on Wednesday at Oko-Oba, Age, Lagos.
It is not only for Bamise, but for us.
We can never be tired of fighting for justice. Bamise was not tired of fighting till her last breath. Until justice is served, we will never be tired.
We requested for fiat but they did not grant us fiat. Let His Excellency come out and tell us the reason for not granting us fiat. Let him give us a concrete reason. We have our lawyers. It's not as if the family of the late Bamise could not afford a lawyer, It is not as if we did not have lawyers.
They should grant us fiat if truly the Lagos State government knows nothing about what happened to my younger sister.
His Excellency has never called any of Bamise's family members to speak with us. Even the First Lady it was after some amount of crying before she came to visit my parents.
His Excellency and my parents only spoke on WhatsApp video call, meanwhile, he promised them that he would come, not that he would send his wife. He disappointed my aged parents.
You won't believe that Lagos Bus Services Limited (LBSL) never knew about my family and they never one day come to my family to say sorry. It was after I went to Ibadan for an interview that they said my family said they shouldn't come.
I am calling on all good women, I am calling Falz and all Nigerians of goodwill to come out on Wednesday November 30 to demand justice for Bamise and others that have gone the same way like her, to demand an end to brutal killing of Nigerians, especially women, ladies and youths in general.