On February 26, 2022, Ayanwola Bamise boarded a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) vehicle at Chevron Bus Stop, Lekki, heading to Oshodi in Lagos. The 22-year-old fashion designer was on her way to her brother’s home to stay with him and his pregnant wife.
According to a Twitter thread posted by her friend, Mercy, on March 2, 2022, Bamise sensed something was wrong with the ride shortly after it started around 7 pm.
The driver had asked her to sit at the back of the bus even though it was empty.
Her discomfort with the situation grew, so she started texting her friends to update them with audio messages and videos.
The bus was initially not picking up any new passengers, but she said she was relieved after two men and one woman boarded. But she was still uneasy that she told her friends she would get down as Oworonshoki, unwilling to reach Oshodi with the bus.
In one of the videos she shared, she told her friend, “Please pray for me. My mind is not at rest. Don’t tell anybody. Don’t tell Aunty Rinu. She’d make fun of me if nothing happens.”
But something did happen — it was the last time anyone heard from her alive.
Missing for over one week
Bamise’s family used the information she passed on to her friends to start searching for her when she did not return home on February 26, 2022. They went to the Oshodi BRT Park Terminal and located the bus that she identified, but the driver was nowhere to be found.
Police officers were alerted but they found out the driver already relocated from his known address. It was the desperation of the search that led her friends to start raising alarm about her disappearance on Twitter. Mercy’s March 2, 2022 Twitter thread has been retweeted over 10,000 times and many people online started calling out the authorities for not doing enough to find her.
Body found, suspect arrested
The Lagos State Police Command, on March 7, 2022, announced that Bamise’s body was found lying on the Carter Bridge by Ogogoro Community in Lagos Island. The body has been confirmed by her family. Online reports have claimed that her private part was missing, but this has not been verified by authorities or Bamise’s brother who identified her body.
Hours after her death was announced, the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested the bus driver, identified as Nice Andrew Omininikoron. The Lagos State Police Command’s spokesperson, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, said the suspect will be charged to court “soon”.
Driver denies involvement
Omininikoron was paraded before the media late on March 7, 2022, but he denied having anything to do with Bamise’s death. He claimed the two of them were attacked by three other male passengers, but he drove off while they were dragging the young lady off the bus.
Nice Andrew Omininikoron is the main suspect in the murder of Ayanwola Bamise
He said, “When those guys showed me the weapon, I couldn’t be myself anymore. Whatever the man with the gun told me was what I did. When I followed that Carter Bridge, they ordered me to stop and open the door. When I opened the door, they started dragging her. She was crying for help, but I was helpless. I thought she was inside the vehicle holding the iron, so I moved on.”
Omininikoron also said he ran into hiding after the incident because he was afraid.
What are the issues?
The BRT vehicle used by the suspect is operated by the Lagos Bus Service Ltd (LBSL) which was incorporated in 2016. The company prides itself as “the first point of call for reliable transit in Lagos”. That claim is now under dispute following Bamise’s murder.
The BRT vehicle that Bamise boarded was running LSBL’s Ajah-Oshodi route.
Many Nigerians online are lamenting that the service is no longer the safe space that it was once thought to be. Other people are also worried that the government did not swing into action quickly enough, following Bamise’s disappearance.
Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said in a statement on March 7, 2022 that he’s instructed LSBL to cooperate with the police and assist in the investigations.
He said, “I hereby give you my word that JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED. To fellow Lagosians, I assure you that I am following all the investigations closely, and will ensure that Oluwabamise gets the justice she deserves. I also assure you all that the BRT services remain safe, despite this condemnable act.”
Protests take place
A protest against Bamise’s murder was announced to take place in Lagos on March 8 which is also International Women’s Day.
Protesters will converge at the Gani Fawehinmi Park, and proceed to the Government House in Alausa, Ikeja.
Protesters have been advised to conduct themselves peacefully.