A little over one year after the Easter tragedy in which an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps drove into a Boys’ Brigade procession, killing nine members of the youth organisation. Parents of three of the late children talk to CHIMA AZUBUIKE about the tragedy one year after
Who are you?
I’m Lydia Abba, from Yalmatu Deba in Gombe State. I’m the mother of the late Joseph, one of the nine members of the Boys’ Brigade who were crushed to death by a member of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state last year.
Can you narrate the incident?
Seventeen-year-old Joseph went for Easter rally, which was in commemoration of the season. It was around 12am I received a call that I should come to the State Specialist Hospital, where I met my son on the bare ground inside the Accident and Emergency ward. From there, I took him to a private clinic called Saleem because there were no doctors to attend to him at the public hospital.
The former Deputy Governor, Charles Iliya, came there to see us and made promises concerning the cost of treatment. Joseph’s condition deteriorated at Saleem, as they were just giving him analgesics for pain before he was finally transfered to Kano, where his spinal cord injury was to be treated. Joseph passed on immediately we got to Kano State. They had commenced burial arrangements for the eight other children (Boys’ Brigade members) who died on the spot. They asked if I would like the burial to be done immediately and I said yes. That was how we arrived with Joseph’s corpse and the burial was jointly done.
How has it affected your family?
We have lost them and have left everything to God. Honestly, I have been badly affected as a single mother. Before the unfortunate incident, I had two children; with his demise, I’m left with one. Since I gave birth to him, till he died, my late father and I were solely responsible for his upbringing because Joseph’s father abandoned us.
How did the government try to assuage your grief?
Government has abandoned us with the various promises they made then to calm the situation down. After one year, we have yet to get any form of compensation from the state government and the NSCDC.
Tell me about the late Joseph.
I started doing my laundry after the demise of my son, he was very useful to me. The 17-year-old boy cooked and took care of the house. He was a lover of books and music.
So how did the last Easter go without Joseph?
I can’t say that I celebrated Easter this year, I believe no matter what, I must remember him. I didn’t celebrate it, I was visited by my relatives and church members.
What advice do you have for fellow parents who also lost their child?
I want them to leave everything in God’s hands. We should be able to take things easy despite our disappointments.
What do you expect from the government?
We expect the government to do something about our loss. Government should remember us, what happened to us is very painful. Although no matter the support we get, our children will not come back to life, whatever they can do for us to forget the past, they should do it for us.
You lost your son in 2019 on Easter day…
I’m the father of the late Irimiya. I’m Amos Ibrahim from Kumo in Gombe.
Tell me what happened.
Last year was very terrible for me; a week after I lost my father, Irimiya also died. I was told about it around 1am, then I rode on my motorcycle to ECWA 2 but nothing was happening there so I proceeded to Sabonline axis where I met a large gathering of people. When I got to the hospital and sighted the corpses of the teenagers, including my son’s, I fainted.
How has it affected your family?
It has affected us terribly, no one has been able to take his place. Sometimes, I feel lonely without him. Irimiya made the entire place to be lively; he was such an active person.
Has government lived up to expectations based on the promises made to you?
The government has not done anything for us except for District Church Council and the Christian Association of Nigeria which made efforts. The government has failed to give any support to parents of the children who were killed. The national president of Boys’ Brigade has been making efforts to reach the current governor, Inuwa Yahaya. I have been trying from my end to reach out to the deputy governor, who is a Christian, to facilitate how our demands will be met by the government.
What do you want government to do?
The government should compensate us. I can’t say what exactly the government should do but something to alleviate the pain for parents. Mind you, whatever they intend to pay won’t bring our children back alive.
How did you celebrate this year’s Easter after last year’s experience?
I’m not sure this year’s Easter was celebrated worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic. At some point, I began to wish we had coronavirus pandemic last year, perhaps the Boys’ Brigade wouldn’t have been allowed to go out, and it wouldn’t have happened. Then I had to apologise to God for thinking wrongly. However, we remembered them last Easter but we were sad.
What were your late son’s ambitions?
I recall he had told us about his love for the Armed Forces countless times. He showed expectional interest in beating drums. Each time we went to the village, he used to teach other children how to drum.
What advice do you have for parents who also lost their children to the tragedy?
Let’s be thankful to God, we can’t blame Him. Let’s fervently serve Him and do good so that we can meet them (our children) in glory.
Do you have any advice for the government?
We want the government to compensate affected parents, no matter how much or little. Like I told you, no amount can bring them back but it will show that they are concerned and unhappy about our plight. According to the state CAN chairman, Rev. Ibrahim Joda, about N7m was released by Ibrahim Dankwambo’s administration to the former Health Commissioner, Dr Kennedy Ishaya, then which we have not seen. But we are talking about the current government now which has not done anything.
Your son, Joseph Gavan, was among nine Boys’ Brigade members killed in 2019 on Easter, what do you remember about the day?
I’m Danjuma Paul, father of the late Joseph Gavan. We are from Plateau State, but we live in Gombe. Our children were marching in procession to commemorate the Easter season and an official of the NSCDC rammed into them in his vehicle, killing eight instantly. The ninth child died later from injuries sustained while many others sustained varying degrees of injury.
Two of my children were in the procession; it was the other child that came back to inform us about the unfortunate incident.
How has his demise affected your family?
He was our first son and we had high hopes and expectations for him. He was 15 years old when he passed on. We feel terrible; his absence has left us with a great pain. I still remember the way he always greeted me after morning prayers and our regular discussions.
How has the government been able to assuage your pain?
We have only been getting empty promises because they have failed to deliver on all that they promised. The government promised to look into the unfortunate incident. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps also promised to assist us by giving our family members employment but we have not heard from them.
Were there promises to give you monetary compensation?
No, they didn’t talk about that but they said they would look into the matter but nothing has been heard from them. No action was taken that I know of.
How did you celebrate Easter this year?
It was a sad one; my family and I were indoors. We didn’t go anywhere but we prayed. Some of the Boys’ Brigade members visited us last Easter, while some others sent text messages.
What were your son’s ambitions?
He always told us he wanted to become a soldier. Joseph wrote ‘Small Army’ on things in the whole house. He was fondly called Small Army by people.
I will advise other affected parents to take heart; God allowed it to happen. If he didn’t allow it, the NSCDC official wouldn’t have been able to crush them.
How has his mother been coping?
Oftentimes I advise her to forget about the past and focus on the future.
What message do you have for the government?
The government should see it as a point of duty to assist us. Money cannot bring back our children but a package from them will go a long way to comfort us.