Jos, Nigeria: Sargent Friday Anthony, 40, was a peacekeeper to the core. He was nicknamed “Baban Yara”, meaning, lover of children, for his care for children and communal peace.
Friday was in September 2019 deployed to Plateau State on Special Duty from Uke, Nasarawa State where he was last posted from Abakalike. From Ganda, one of 11 villages in Daffo District, Bokkos Local Government Area, displaced in 2018, to Malul, a neighboring hamlet in the village, the Special Task Force Operative was known to be a peacemaker, a role he played beyond his peacekeeping assignment.
On Thursday, 17th August 2020, despite night fall, he insisted to settle a dispute between two locals. It was the third of such issues that day, that he wouldn’t let last another day. His wife, Grace, 38, had just visited him with their two kids. It was a happy reunion but who’d have ever known that it would turn out to be their last?
Friday, said Grace, was “Father, brother, husband and friend” to her.
Since her parents died, he’d been “Everything”, providing her social and psychological needs. She has a small hairdressing saloon, an only source of income aside from her husband’s support. From the moment his life was cut short by gunmen believed to be herdsmen, Grace says her life has been “shattered”.
“I feel like to die and follow him. I just don’t know how I am going to start life, with these children. He was everything to us,” she said in tears.
“We were at home together discussing about life and the future of our children,” she recalled. A woman in the village, Grace narrated, “Came in reporting that a youngman in the village had collected her MP3 player and would not return it. He instantly excused himself and went to find the man. He asked about the device and the youngman said he left it in the main town charging.
“The woman insisted that he had given it out as bond for a drink he took on credit. My husband instantly asked him to go with him to get it. They did, and on their way back, Fulani people who had unknown to my husband stationed themselves in the bushes opened fire at them, killing him and the youngman.
“It was the worst day of my life. The gunshots were no longer scary, when I heard my husband’s voice. I felt like rushing to save him but was held back. These people have taken everything from me – my love, my joy, my counselor, my comfort, my hope and my children’s future,” Grace tearfully said.
Friday Anthony, killed in the line of duty
Before Friday gave up the ghost, Grace said she heard him groaning, “Jesus help me…Jesus…” while more gunshots thundered in his direction. A survivor of the attack said when Friday fell, the attackers whom he recognized as herdsmen rushed at him with sporadic shots, pelting his face and chest with bullets.
Friday had previously cracked several crimes involving herdsmen – farmland destructions included, often insisting that compensation be paid affected farmers. Locals believe the murder was premeditated, given his role in pursuing justice for the repeatedly attacked villagers.
The killers have yet to be arrested, but they are known faces within the locality, villagers say.
Some of them who reportedly reside within the community had previously been arrested for murder, with incriminating evidences but released without trial.
The Thursday 17th attack was the seventh in the hamlet. The last before it was three weeks ago when a boy named Holleng Matthew was shot in the chest but the bullet did not affect his vital organs.
Holleng Matthew recalls being shot at by familiar herders
The murder of Sgt. Friday adds to the records of attacks on security agents in Plateau State.
He will be buried on Saturday, 26th September, 2020 in Olachagbaha, Otukpa, Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State after being conveyed from 3Division Army headquarters, Jos, Friday.
Whether his killers will eventually be hunted and his wife and four children provided some support aside from the meager pension and gratuity paid junior officers in the Nigerian Police Force, which mostly take ages to process, only time will tell.