Community alleges harassment by police



• As Monarch, Cousin, Clash Over Dead Chief
• Police Deny Accusation

Residents of Ilora, in Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State, have accused the police of harassment and invasion of their community.

They alleged that two powerful feuding forces in the town have been using law enforcement agents to harass each other, and that the development is causing the residents sleepless nights.

The factions: the traditional ruler of the town and his chiefs on one hand; and his cousin, who is a community and religious leader, on the other hand, have, however, denied causing any trouble.

While the town’s monarch, Oba Stephen Olufemi Oparinde, alongside his chiefs and community leaders, said they are committed to peace, their perceived opponent, a businessman and cousin to the monarch, Elder Francis Afolabi, is demanding justice over the death of one Chief Lawrence Ikiade Owoade, who was second in command to the monarch.

The late chief, who was the Onsa of Ilora, was said to have hanged himself last year in the town. A storm has, however, gathered over the death and is threatening to tear the community apart.

Oba Oparinde is pointing at his cousin, as being behind attempts by the police to exhume the body of the late chief; his cousin says he is only interested in fair play and Justice.

The monarch said the problem with his cousin started when he refused the latter’s attempt to lord things over him and the community using his wealth.

“He came to meet me on the issue of the son of late Omotayo. And I said we couldn’t talk about the glory of someone’s child, unless you will sponsor his education to university level and then hand him over to his mother. But he said no. I asked the family to speak on the matter and they disowned him. They said they don’t know how he became a friend to their son. That was how my problem with him started; he does not believe anyone can say no to his request in this town. He believes that whatever he says must be followed.”

Elder Francis Afolabi initially declined response to the allegation, saying he did not wish to join issues with the monarch on the matter, as according to him, the case is already in court. He, therefore, directed the reporter to the Police Headquarters, Zone 11, Oshogbo, for enquiries.

But pressed further, he said: “If they are saying that I am causing confusion in the town, let them go to court. Or is the court not there for them? Why was the late Onsa hurriedly buried? The late Onsa was sound in health. So, if we are asking for a post-mortem, is there any culture that is more powerful than the law? Even if the king and I are cousins, should I support something that is wrong?

On the allegation that he has been using the police to harass people in the town, Afolabi asked: “Am I the Inspector General of Police controlling the police, or are the police not supposed to do their job anymore?”

A community leader in the town, Deacon Kayode Ajayi, who is also the President of Ilora Development Association, said people of the town are only interested in peace and are unhappy with the latest development.

“We are a peace-loving people in this town. But we are not only concerned about just having peace; we also want justice. We can’t condone any act of disrespect to our traditional ruler. We have been tolerating the excesses of some people who have been disrespecting our Oba and customs. It is not that we are cowards; we just want peace and justice. That’s all.”

Another community leader, Professor Julius Ipadeola Olaifa of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, also stressed that the people of the town are peace loving, even as he blamed Elder Afolabi for the current impasse.

He said: “At every turn, Elder Afolabi has refused to meet us half-way whenever we tried to arrange a truce. He has been using his wealth to oppress the people of the town. He has never used his riches to the benefit of the people. He has been fomenting trouble. It is not that the community cannot fight him; we have just been taking our time and trying to exhaust all humanly possible ways to settle these things without further rancour.”

The widow to the late Onsa of Ilora, Deaconess Ola Owoade, said the decision to exhume the body of her late husband was a collective one, not limited to her and the children. She said she never saw her husband’s dead body, as she was told it was against tradition.

The police denied involvement in the exhumation story. They also denied the alleged harassment of residents or community leaders.

The Police Public Relations Officer (Zone 11, Police Force Headquarters, Oshogbo), Mr. Sola Babalola, said his men are not involved in the case in question, but are only concerned with investigating a petition on threat to life written by one of the parties.

He said: “To the best of my knowledge, we in Zone 11 have nothing to do with the harassment of anybody in that town. I have actually asked our men about that case, and the team handling it has specifically told me that they are only investigating the matter of a petition on threat to life written by one Elder Francis Morakinyo Afolabi.

“He alleged that his life was being threatened by certain people and was worried about his safety. He hinged this on the premise that somebody in the community was threatened last year and the person was murdered later, and that he didn’t want his life snuffed out in similar fashion.

“There is no truth in the harassment story or exhumation attempt. Our team cannot and has not arrested anybody involved in the case. Our team has said it only investigated to establish the authenticity of the allegation in the petition. I even believe the Oyo State Police Command has investigated the murder case and the matter has been closed.

“If there is any untoward attitude by anybody over this case in the last few months, I don’t know anything about it, because I have been away for some months. But I am sure nothing like that has happened.”

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