35-year-old baker, Hanofi Taofeek, and his wife, Taiwo, were hit by one Arinze Okafor, a drunk commercial bus driver while returning home on December 9, 2022 on Iludun Street, in the Amukoko area of Lagos State. Unfortunately, Hanofi died on the spot, while Taiwo went into coma as a result of her many injuries. In this interview with OLAMIDE FAMUWAGUN, the widow laments her husband’s death with a great fervour to get justice
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Taiwo Taofeek Olawale. I’m 29 years old, and I went to school at the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger State as an ND student. During that time, I met my husband, Hanofi Taofeek Olawale; we started our relationship at school, and we were married for three years. I’m a trader.
Can you tell us about the incident and how you feel about it?
Around 11 pm, my husband and I were heading home after I closed for the day. My husband works as a manager in a bakery, while I sell noodles. He usually came to my shop so we could both go home together. We were on the walkway when we were hit by a bus from behind, and my husband died on the spot. Since the incident happened, I have felt very bad; I haven’t been myself even up to now. I’m very unhappy. How could I have lost someone I had been with for three years? We always did everything together. I thought about it yesterday and started crying.
Now that I’m the only one in the room, there’s no one to talk to or play with. My husband and I were very close and never had a reason to fight at all. Up until now, I still think about it, and I haven’t gotten a hold of myself.
Every day, I think about it: I’m stranded and I don’t have anything left; it was my husband who provided everything for us. When I needed money or anything, he would always be there to provide. My neighbours have been trying their best, giving me food, provisions, and all, but it can’t be like my husband. I don’t have anything left. My family and his are in Kwara State. My husband did not have parents; he only had his senior brother and two younger siblings; he was like the head of his family, and that is why it is such a great pain and loss for this family.
How was your relationship with the deceased, who was hit by a drunk driver?
He was my husband. We started our relationship in 2016 during my ND programme. I had family in Lagos then, and that was how I first met him. We started our relationship then, and I’m thankful that it ended in marriage. We were together for seven years because I had dated him for four years. When I was in school, he stood by me and even sponsored my project. He was very kind to me, and we were very close. Everyone around us knows this, and that’s why, when he died, they didn’t tell me immediately. It was after three weeks that I was told because they know that if they had told me then, I might have died as well. That’s how close we were. It’s only God that can save me now. Every day, he comes to my shop, and we go home together. As we go home, we play with each other. We play with each other like siblings. He was a calm person who doesn’t fight; he just goes his way. He doesn’t smoke or drink.
How did you hear about your husband’s death?
While I was at the hospital, I kept asking after my husband, but my relatives kept telling me he was fine, that he was just injured; they didn’t want to tell me he had died immediately. Every time they came to visit, I kept asking after my husband because I knew there was no way he would be fine and not ask of me. That’s how I knew about his death—he reached the hospital but didn’t survive; he had died on the spot.
How has his family responded to his death?
It’s tough on all of us but they’ve all stood by me. When his older brother, Bashiru heard about the whole thing, he called me and has been calling me every day since that day. He’s one of the people who encouraged me to fight for justice because my husband, who is precious to us all, cannot just die like that. My late husband was even responsible for his older brother daily. His junior brother stays together, and one of them has still been crying over the whole thing.
Are you familiar with the drunk driver or the owner of the bus?
No, I don’t know any of them. I can’t even point at them or recognise them. I haven’t seen them or their families since the incident happened.
What has the driver done to appease you and your family since the tragic incident?
They haven’t done anything. The only thing they attempted to do, through one of my husband’s younger brothers, was to offer to pay N1m to us; however, the money would be paid in instalments of N200,000. I told them I didn’t want their money; their money doesn’t matter; the incident has happened, and we’re going to take action. All through my recovery at the hospital, they never came to check on me. The hospital I was admitted was close to the police station where the drunk driver was detained, they paid him regular visits and fed him without bothering to check on my well-being. I was in a coma and they never stopped by. Even when it came to the N1m, they couldn’t tell me directly but had to go through my husband’s younger brother.
How have the police responded to the matter?
On Wednesday, after the report in The PUNCH on my husband’s death, I read that the case had been moved to court and immediately went to the police station, but there’s no confirmation to show that the case has been moved to court, and the document shown to us also gave us doubts. The DPO told us it has been moved to court, but honestly, I’m not sure it has, mainly because they did it without our knowledge and approval; I didn’t know anything until I read it in the paper.
The police did poorly in their response to me; they kept berating me and my family for a long time about not having money to pursue the case. A good police officer shouldn’t be asking such questions when a person’s life has been lost or siding with the other party because they have money. The owner of the car is said to be the DPO’s friend.
What does this make you feel about Nigeria’s justice system?
The Nigerian justice system takes a toll on a person. They don’t make it easy for ordinary people to get justice.
Have you spent any money on the case since this incident?
No, I haven’t. I only spent money on my husband’s burial and my treatments.
So, how have you been managing yourself?
People around me have been really helpful; they have been donating food items and provisions.
How are you recovering from all your injuries?
I still feel pain in my face. My face is still recovering. I spent more than N500,000 at the hospital.
Is the driver still in custody?
We honestly don’t know; when we asked the police, they were not straightforward. All they said was that the case had been charged, but they didn’t say whether the driver was still in custody. No one knows whether he’s actually in custody. The only thing I know is that the bus that the drunk driver drove that night is still at the police station; they didn’t release it to the owner, but that was because a worker of the Civil Defence of Human Rights, Sunday Omolokun, had demanded that the vehicle not be released to the owner; the owner had once come to collect the vehicle, but Mr Omolokun prevented it.
What do you want as justice for the death of your husband?
I want the court case to go forward and for the driver to go to jail. I’d be happy if Nigerians could help us fight for justice. I liked the way The PUNCH reported the matter because once it came out, people saw the seriousness of the issue. I can’t and will not withdraw the case; I will go to any lengths; my husband can’t just die like that without anything being done.
Ensuring justice and sending this driver to jail will also serve as a deterrent to others who do such things, but if things like this go unpunished, it will only increase the vices in our society.