On Sunday, October 13, 2013, Mr. Tolu Ayoola, 37, left his New Oko-Oba, Agege, Lagos residence around 7pm to get some fuel for his generator and batteries for his child’s walker, but has not returned home since then. He was driving his official vehicle, a white Toyota Hillux van with registration number, EK618A01, marked ‘Bureau of Special projects.
His wife, Adepeju, said Ayoola’s suspected abduction had turned “her life upside down.” She said the family learnt from eyewitnesses that Ayoola was stopped on his way back home around 7.30pm by some armed men, who snatched the vehicle at gun point and took him away.
Ayoola, a civil engineer with a private company, was recently seconded to Ekiti State to supervise a road project.
The nursing mother said the incident occurred on the day their second child clocked six months.
She said, “He had just returned from church and he had not planned to go out again. But then, there was outage and the generator was sounding like it needed fuel. So, he left to buy some fuel, particularly because of our new baby.
“As he stepped out, light came on and I felt like stopping him from buying the fuel but I didn’t since we would still need it. Then, I thought we still needed some batteries, so I told him to also buy batteries for our baby’s walker on his way.”
Adepeju said eyewitness account reported that her husband was already at Amusan T-junction, which was a few blocks away from their residence, when he was waylaid and taken away.
“It was exactly the day our baby was six months old. Eyewitnesses said the gunmen shot into the air and bundled him into the booth of their vehicle. They also took his official vehicle away with them.”
Ayoola’s younger brother, Taiwo, described the incident as “very sad and heartbreaking.”
He said Ayoola’s phone was switched off by noon on Tuesday after a barrage of calls to the line by family members, who were concerned about his state.
But before the phone was switched off, according to Taiwo, the suspected abductors had picked up his call to say that Ayoola was being arrested for a traffic offence and taken to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Ikeja.
He said, “I arrived at my brother’s place that same evening, not knowing that anything had happened. I saw many people outside and heard some people saying ‘he has come back’, thinking that I was him since we look alike.
“At 8.49pm, when I called my brother’s number, someone else picked the call and I asked him to give the phone to my brother. Then he said that he (Ayoola) had been arrested for a traffic offence and later cut off the phone.
“Later, the person stopped picking our calls but they left the phone on. But by the following afternoon, his phone had been switched off.”
The family said officials of SARS had denied that Ayoola was ever brought to their office.
By Thursday afternoon, the scene of the incident still maintained an eerie calm and many residents declined to speak about the issue for fear of attack.
However, one of the residents, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, confirmed the incident, describing it as “unfortunate”.
The eyewitness said, “Everyone was afraid, so we ran. But the truth is that such things have become rampant in this area. Last Thursday, a woman was robbed on Olaniyi Street, two streets from here, and her car was snatched. Also on Tuesday, someone was also abducted in this area and his vehicle was similarly taken away. Sometimes, these incidents happen in the morning.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Ngozi Braide, who also confirmed the incident, on the phone, said that the police were working to secure Ayoola’s release.
She said, “We’re working on it but it’s a kidnap case and we can’t start releasing information on it.”