By Adebayo Olodan
For several years, Afusat Azeez and her family lived a modest lifestyle in their room and parlour apartment somewhere in Ijomu-Oro until 13th of May, 2018.
On that fateful day, Afusat’s husband, Azeez Salaudeen, a mechanic was lying flat on his back at his workshop while repairing his car (Golf 3) when some unidentified police officers allegedly stormed the area.
The security men were said to have manhandled him without telling him what offence he had committed. Azeez, who is widely known as Stand Well Well was thereafter transported to Ilorin by the policemen after a short stop at the Oro Police Station.
It was not until he got to Ilorin that he was informed by the police that he was among the suspects of the Offa banks robbery incident which claimed the lives of 33 people including nine police officers on April 5, 2018.
Speaking with our reporter at the weekend, wife of the suspect, Mrs Azeez said she and her five children have been feeding practically from hand to mouth following the arrest of her husband for an offence he knew nothing about.
She however appealed to the Nigerian police to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter in order to fast track the release of her husband.
“My husband was such an easy going and hardworking individual. He never cheated anyone nor took what does not belong to him.
“Even when his customers gave him huge sums of money to buy spare parts and we had no food to eat, Baba Shukura (my husband) will not take a dime from such money to feed his family.
“It was however more of a surprise when I was told he had been arrested for an offence he never committed,” she lamented.
Speaking further, Mrs Azeez said her husband was returning home after driving one Alhaji Adeniran to Ibadan when on getting to Offa in a commercial bus alongside a colleague, Niyi Ogundiran, they discovered armed robbers were attacking banks.
“My husband even called me from Offa telling me that my sister that came to trade in Oro should stay back in our house as armed robbers were operating in Offa.
“On his arrival, he told me how himself, Niyi and Arrow (Kunle Ogunleye) sought refuge in a house around Total Filling Station in Offa to avoid being hit by the bullets. He also told me how he helped in carrying lifeless bodies after the armed robbers had vacated the scene. In fact, my husband prayed that justice should catch up with the perpetrators of the sad incident.”
On how the family has been coping in the absence of the breadwinner, Mrs Azeez said, “Some of my husband’s colleagues, friends and clients do come around to give us whatever they have. However, when I needed to pay school fees of my children, I collected N70,000 from a Microfinance bank which I am yet to offset. ”
Similarly, the younger brother of Azeez, Abdulfatah Salaudeen in a telephone interview with our reporter from Lagos, yesterday, prayed that may the truth prevail while also appealing to well-meaning Nigerians to help secure the release of the breadwinner of his family.
“We initially thought my brother’s arrest must have been a case of mistaken identity and we had hoped he would be released in a matter of days, however, it is about three months now but there is no sight of him.
“As I speak with you, several monarchs in Kwara South are worried because he is so popular among them and they never found fault with him.
“My brother served many of those traditional rulers either as mechanic or stop-gap driver especially whenever they needed to travel long distance.”
According to Abdulfatah, every attempt by the family, friends and colleagues to have access to his brother was being frustrated by the mechanic.
Meanwhile, colleagues of – two of the Offa banks robbery suspects; Azeez and Niyi, under the banner of Nigeria Automobiles Technicians Association (NATA), Oro Zone has gone spiritual over the delay in the release of the duo.
Speaking with our reporter on Saturday, the Chairman of NATA, Oro Zone, Mr Raufu Ibrahim, said members of the association fasted and organised a special prayer last Thursday and Friday respectively for the safe return of their colleagues who are presently in police custody.
“We knew from the very day Azeez and Niyi were arrested that they were being punished for an offence they never committed. We have been together for a long time and we know what acts our colleagues can put up but not armed robbery or anything close to that.
“We were however worried that they have been kept in custody for so long despite their innocence hence our resolve to intensify our prayers in addition to last Thursday’s fasting.
“At a time there were, rumours that one of them had died in custody but we later heard that he is alive. These are indeed hard time for us as colleagues but we are hopeful that at the end of the day, they will both be set free,” he stated.