Samuel, the brother of Samson Ajayi, a student at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, who disappeared and was last seen on March 9, 2022, at a construction site in Lagos where he was working as a laborer , recount EMMANUEL OJO how the incident affected the family
What is your relationship with the missing student?
My name is Samuel Ajayi. I am from Ekiti state. I am the older brother of Samson Ajayi, who has been reported missing. My brother disappeared on March 9. We were called the same day. So far, the police have not been able to reach any conclusion in the investigation of this case.
Who informed you that he was nowhere to be found?
His colleagues did. Samson is actually the youngest among his colleagues on the site. He goes there on Monday and stays there until Saturday evening before returning home. He did it because of the distance and the fuel crisis at that time. It’s quite a long distance between Ajah and the mainland every day.
When did he start working on the site?
Samson started working there on Monday, February 21. He usually works Monday to Saturday, closes on Saturday evening, and returns home, to resume the same routine the following week. The incident happened during the third week of his work there. What he does there is work as a helper and tiler. It is paid daily.
What was your first line of action when you received the information?
Well, there were four of us who went that day (March 9), including my mother and my wife. Having been informed that we did not know where he was, we showed up at the site in the early hours of Thursday 10th March. The construction site, Victoria Crest Homes, Lekki-Ajah, is not far from the Eleganza bus stop. It’s a mega estate with lots of residents already occupying properties. Arrived on site, we meet the foreman, Abolade, his assistant, and a lady who works as a storekeeper, who does the inventory. We also met the three security guards, Moshood, Sunday and Bright.
Abolade said he paid them (workers) that night and everyone went back to the inn where they slept. It was at midnight that we received the news that he (Samson) had disappeared. On the site, the workers continued to work as if nothing had happened and no one was missing. They couldn’t even make a report to the police station to declare his disappearance. Arriving at the site and meeting the engineer, we went upstairs where my brother sleeps. When we got to this place, we found all of his stuff there – his clothes, phone and other stuff. Her phone was off, I had to use my power bank to power her up and check her last calls and messages.
What was the last call?
The last call he made was one with his classmate in Ibadan. We checked his last caller for a clue and found out it was his classmate in Ibadan who said that Samson called him earlier and he should call back and they only spoke how to pay their tuition through Remita. Samson had already made the payment on Remita a week before and I saw the confirmation alert on his phone.
Why pay tuition fees when the University Academic Staff Union is still on strike?
The school encouraged them to pay before the resumption. He had to do it and register before the portal closed.
Did you report to the police that your brother was missing?
That day, we went to the Ajiwe police station and we were assigned an investigating policeman. While at the Ajiwe police station, we received a call from the site engineer, who told us to return to the site as Samson had been found. We waited a bit for the IPO assigned to us because she said she needed to have a meal. We were asked to pay the “mobilization fee” which we transferred immediately. Shortly after, as we waited for the officer, another call came in from the site supervisor, reiterating that Samson had been found. So I put the call on speaker so everyone could hear and asked the engineer to give the phone to my brother (Samson) but the engineer insisted that we go back to the site.
What did the IPO advise you?
The IPO suggested she wouldn’t need to come since the boy had been found but I insisted since we had paid the mobilization costs. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the site from the station by motorbike. When we arrived at the site, we were taken to a non-flowing river which was not too far from the construction site. When we arrived they showed us a corpse, claiming that it was Samson’s body that had been found. My mother immediately started crying. A piece of cloth was found next to the corpse near the river where we were taken. I recognized the piece of fabric because I gave it to him. I saw his shoes too.
Did you notice anything abnormal?
I discovered that the piece of fabric was not returned as expected when taking off his shirt. He was just right there. I told them the body was not my brother’s.
Did you check facial identification or other forms of likeness to see if he was the one?
Yes. Even the body we saw that day had started to decompose. He must have been there for no less than two weeks. Some parts were dilapidated. I discovered a cut on the corpse’s neck and part of the body was burned. In size, the found corpse was taller than Samson, fatter than him, and had a dreadlock-like hairstyle that Samson doesn’t keep. They claimed my brother died there. The corpse was already swollen.
What did you do next?
We returned to Ajiwe post but the DPD said the area was not under their jurisdiction. We were told that it was under the jurisdiction of the Ogombo police station. When we arrived at Ogombo station, we were told to make a statement, but before we could make that statement, we were told to pay and we did. When we met the DPD and explained everything that had happened, he said the boy had probably jumped into the water and left with the water. The DPO asked us to check the next day and it’s been back and forth ever since. We were even told to refuel their vehicle for the mobilization and finally they transferred the file to Ikeja.
How much were you told to pay?
Forget that for now.
Were you satisfied with the way the police handled the situation?
The way we were treated at Ogombo police station, I didn’t like. They were sometimes tough on us and it seemed like there was some foul play.
Did you send a petition to the police commissioner?
We drafted a petition and addressed it to the Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alabi. It was March 12 and three days later we visited the police commissioner. We wrote the first petition and after visiting the commissioner, the case was transferred to the state criminal investigation department, and eventually, it was transferred to the homicide department.
Did you have any suspicions about who your brother was working with?
We identified those who were the main suspects, including the three security guards. One of the security guards had always taken advantage of Samson’s mosquito net by sharing it with him. He stated that he could not find Samson that night when he went to take refuge under Samson’s net.
What did the homicide department tell you?
The homicide department said they would run a DNA test on the body found by the river to determine if he (Samson) was the one. They (police) took the corpse to IDH in Yaba. They took the first sample on March 25 and it took them about six weeks before the result was released.
What did the result show?
When the result came out, they told us that the result was inconclusive. It was neither positive nor negative. Police said they would have to do another DNA test and samples were taken on May 14, but so far they said the DNA result was not ready. We went to see a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), and he wrote the second petition. The homicide department did nothing and the main suspects were released even without our knowledge. Some said it was the right thing to do since no concrete evidence was found against them.
Who is the owner of the site where your brother worked before his disappearance?
The owner of the site, Kennedy Nwoko, has not said anything so far. Apart from DNA, the police did not do any concrete investigation in this area or this neighborhood. This corpse that was found was not fresh. He is almost in decomposition. Police said they are still awaiting the DNA test result. The physical appearance of the corpse looked very old like someone who was over 60 compared to a 22 year old male. The size, body structure, teeth, and general appearance of the corpse did not match my brother’s.
What did your brother study in college?
He was a 200 level student and he had to go to 300 level. He was in the engineering physics department.
Is it true that he had a first-class grade point average?
How are your parents dealing with the situation?
As a mother, it’s not easy for her. I even had sleepless nights. Samson is a very promising child and a genius. He is very good with computers, although he did not attend computer school. A Yoruba saying translated into English says that it is better for a child to be dead than missing. Our dad is just trying to act like a man because my mom is down. She’s been in the hospital so far, and she hasn’t recovered.
How long has she been in the hospital?
Ah! She is in a coma. When we got to the riverside the view was not nice. When we received the call earlier that Samson had been found, we did not expect to encounter a dead body. She reacted as if Samson had been confirmed dead. She fainted at the sight of the corpse.
If not, how would you describe your brother?
He is someone who likes to be independent. There was a time when things were not going well at work for my father. Samson took it upon himself to make the money and max out the ASUU strike to get something good out of it, just to hustle as a young man. No one asked him to go hustle. He just likes to be independent and tries on his side to provide support to parents to reduce the financial burden on them. He is the second child of four children. I’m the first. He’s a pretty shy person. He does not speak a lot. Sometimes, when he’s bored, he prefers to pick up a book and read. That’s the kind of person he is. When I spoke to someone about the area where Samson worked, the person said it was a very dangerous area. Many lives would have been wasted there without public notice.